Washington: Prominent Pakistani dissidents have expressed dismay at hurried legislation to legalise the extension in tenure of Pakistan’s army chief, General Qamar Bajwa.

South Asians Against Terrorism and for Human Rights (SAATH), a grouping of prodemocracy Pakistanis, issued a statement voicing concern at the manner in which the govt and the main opposition parties “rushed through parliament” amendments to the Army Act “without debate as to the desirability or necessity of such legislation, and without due consideration to the implications of such an action on the future of democracy in Pakistan.”

According to the statement, “It is a fact of history that the desire to perpetuate personal power, army chiefs of Pakistan have time and again disrupted the democratic project in Pakistan. While in the past the military has carried out coups, and its chiefs have extended their tenures themselves by force, and while one example also exists where the president of Pakistan extended the tenure of an army chief under duress, there is no example of parliament undertaking such an adventure.”

SAATH condemned “the unprecedented surrender of the political class & the sacred House that represents the will of the people” and attributed it to “political expediency and personal short- term gains” of Pakistan’s political leaders. “Such actions should have no place in a genuinely democratic dispensation,” the SAATH statement concluded.

Prominent members of SAATH include former Senator Afrasiab Khattak, former Ambassador Kamran Shafi, former editor of Daily Times Rashed Rahman, journalists Taha Siddiqui, Gul Bukhari and Marvi Sirmed and activist Gulalai Ismail.