Calling on politicians to make education their top priority, religious scholars from across Pakistan sat down on Wednesday to talk about the state of education and ways to end the education emergency.

Organised by Alif Ailaan, a campaign to end Pakistan's education emergency and the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies, the roundtable meeting held here Wednesday brought together 40 prominent religious scholars from all schools of thought. The participants urged political parties to clearly state their policies on education in the run-up to the elections. The President of the Ruet-e-Hilal Committee, Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman, said, "Education should be the foremost priority of the next government. Pakistan is facing an education emergency and this state of affairs cannot be improved without political will."

The gathering of religious scholars made a unanimous declaration to fully support the cause of education. They agreed that free, high-quality education in a secure environment was the right of every Pakistani boy and girl, and that it was the government's responsibility to ensure that this right was secured. Former Provincial Minister of Religious Affairs, Maullana Ruh Allah Madni, demanded that all candidates work actively to ensure that article 25A of the Constitution, which guarantees a free education to every child in Pakistan, is practically enforced.

Moazzin Mohammad Salfi, manager of Jamia Sattaria Islamia, Karachi, stressed the need to improve the quality of education, while Mufti Mohammad Zahid, manager of Jamia Imdaadia, Faisalabad, talked about the importance of a favourable learning environment in schools. The Head of the Islamic Studies Department at Peshawar University, Dr. Qibla Ayaz, shed light on the problem of eligibility in the selection of teachers, adding that postings and promotions should be based on merit and ability rather than nepotism.  Dr Syed Muhammad Najasi, Professor and Manager Jamia-tul-Muzhzar, Leader Wifaq-ul-Madaaris Al-Shia said that the lack of education has many negative effects on the society which will keep on getting worse till the education system is fixed.

The former head of the Council for Islamic Ideology, Dr. Khalid Masood, pointed to the lack of adequate funding for education, adding that every political party contesting the May 2013 elections should promise to increase the budget for education to 10% of GDP. "We not only need to get children in school, but keep them learning, and improve the quality of the education they receive" said Alif Ailaan Campaign Director, Mosharraf Zaidi and Amir Rana, Director of Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies.