University call for Pakistan MPs
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Pakistan's supreme court has upheld a requirement that candidates for parliament must hold a university degree.
President Pervez Musharraf plans to make that one of the conditions for elections scheduled for October.
The plan drew challenges from the opposition, who argued that fewer than two-percent of Pakistanis hold university degrees.
Pakistan's election commission has also announced new rules requiring political parties to hold elections for office-bearers. It is also ordeirng that they be publicly audited.
General Musharraf plans to address the nation Friday, and is expected to announce more changes in election laws.
After the decision was announced, Gohar Ayoob Khan, a former foreign minister and general-secretary of the Pakistan Muslim League, resigned from his party post because he does not meet the educational qualification, The Associated Press news agecny reported.
The university degree requirement is among a raft of changes Musharraf plans for the constitution and electoral laws. The other planned changes include shortening some elected terms and lowering the voting age.
The president has already faced a storm of protests over constitutional amendments announced in June that gave him sweeping powers to dictate the country's affairs.
"This comes too suddenly," Dr Ahmed Shafiqul Huque, an Associate Professor at the City University of Hong Kong told CNN.
"The stipulation will definitely have an impact on the policital parties and it will make it extremly difficult for the parties to esablish themselves in the political system."
"The elections will be full of little problems." Dr Huque maintains.
"The biggest issue is that two of the major political parties are without their leaders because they are in exile and the other parties are struggling to maintain their exsistance."
"In that situation the elections really do not bear a lot of significance," he said.
Since his takeover, Musharraf has made it clear that neither Sharif nor Benazir Bhutto, also a twice-elected prime minister, would be allowed to contest elections. Bhutto has been convicted in absentia of corruption, most recently this week, and faces a total of eight years in jail. (Full story)
She is living in self-imposed exile in the United Arab Emirates, although her party workers say she may return to her homeland. The authorities say she will be arrested if she does so.
Musharraf came to power in a bloodless military coup in October 1999, taking the role of 'Chief Executive' of Pakistan. He was given three years by the Supreme Court to curb corruption, introduce reforms and return the country to democracy.
On June 20, 2001, he appointed himself the nation's president while continuing to hold the office of Chief of Army Staff and Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee.
The court deadline would have ended his rule in October 2002, but Musharraf claimed his task was not yet finished.
In April 2002 he held a controversial nationwide referendum to remain as leader for another five years and received an overwhelming majority of votes.
His support for the United States' war against terrorism has gained him praise in the West, but resulted in criticism from within his nation.
In July 2002 a plot to assassinate Musharraf prior to the April referendum was uncovered. (Full story)
Musharraf's constitutional reforms will limit prime ministers and provincial chief ministers to two terms each, disqualifying both Bhutto and Sharif as well as most of the previous provincial premiers.
Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League has said it will contest the elections.
"We will definitely contest elections, but with reservations," The Associated Press has reported Mushahed Ullah Khan, a spokesman for the Pakistan Muslim League, as saying.
Musharraf's constitutional changes also seek to institutionalize the role of the armed forces with the creation of a National Security Council, which would include the chiefs of the army, air force and navy.
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