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Last Updated: Monday, 30 June, 2003, 20:29 GMT 21:29 UK
Court removes Pakistan politician
Rally led by Maulana Fazlur Rehman, head of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) - part of MMA religious alliance
Islamic parties say their qualifications are valid
A court in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province has removed a member of the national assembly in a row over his qualifications.

Peshawar High Court's Election Tribunal ruled that the qualifications of Mufti Ibrar Sultan - a member of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) - are inadequate.

Mr Sultan's degree was obtained from an Islamic seminary and was not equivalent to a university degree, as required by Pakistan's Election Commission.

Justice Tariq Javed, who made the judgment, has ordered a new election in the constituency.

Mr Sultan was the successful candidate in the elections for the national assembly in the NA-14 Kohat constituency of NWFP.

A rival candidate, Syed Iftikhar Hussain Shah, challenged Mr Sultan's qualifications and the court upheld his claim.

Challenges

Mr Sultan is also due to face similar claims in a case at the Supreme Court in the capital Islamabad.

Jamaat-e-Islami members demonstrate in Pakistan
There is increasing anger at Musharraf's powers
Earlier this month Supreme Court notices were sent out to 65 members of the MMA after a petition was lodged with the court challenging their academic credentials.

The request has led to accusations from religious leaders that the petition is a political ploy to undermine their authority.

There are fears that if this decision is upheld by the Supreme Court the majority of the MMA legislators who only have degrees from madrassas (Islamic seminaries) could find themselves disqualified.

Last year the election commission agreed the drop the matter of politicians' qualifications but recently a lawyer, Aslam Khaki, argued the degrees were not equivalent to a university qualification.

He has also filed a petition with the Supreme Court challenging the legality of the introduction of sharia law by religious leaders in North-West Frontier Province.

MMA members say they will refuse to attend the Supreme Court. They argue the petition is a ploy by a supporter of the president, General Pervez Musharraf, to press their alliance into dropping its campaign to strip the President of some of his self-appointed powers.

The MMA has been vigorously campaigning against Musharraf's amendments in the constitution.


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