ISLAMABAD: As Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan’s remarks about distribution of sweets in case of a military coup have sparked a heated debate, the Pakistan People’s party (PPP) played safe on Monday by saying that the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) would be responsible if the military stepped in.

PPP leader Raja Pervez Ashraf, responding to a volley of questions on the issue during a press conference, recalled his party’s support for the supremacy of the Constitution and parliament during the PTI sit-in in Islamabad last year. But he avoided saying clearly if the PPP would be among those distributing sweets or opposing a military coup if it took place. He kept on saying that the PML-N would be responsible for “any deviation from the Constitution”.

PPP Media Coordinator Nazir Dhoki said the party had revived the 1973 Constitution and would not support any unconstitutional act.

But Mr Ashraf said it was not the time such questions had been raised. “We will see when the time comes,” he said.

Mr Ashraf, who faces several corruption cases, said the rulers were not clarifying their position with regard to disclosures made in Panama Papers leaks. “Panama Papers are punishment for their deeds. Now every Pakistani will hold the rulers accountable for amassing wealth abroad.”

Replying to a question about the federal government’s decision to deploy the army in and outside polling stations during Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) general elections being held on July 21, he said it was the demand of the PPP as well as other parties.

He accused the federal government of carrying out worst kind of pre-poll rigging in AJK and questioned frequent visits of federal ministers for campaigning in AJK. He said one of the ministers was using a helicopter on a daily basis for campaigning in favour of a PML-N candidate.

He said AJK President Sardar Yaqoob had been issued a notice for appearing on the stage at a rally in a constituency where his daughter was a candidate. “How can you justify the visits of federal ministers to the AJK? Why no notice is issued to them?”

Mr Ashraf said state apparatus was being used in favour of PML-N candidates. Giving an example, he said a speech of the prime minister’s political secretary Dr Asif Kirmani in Azad Kashmir was telecast live by the PTV which blacked out the opposition.

The former prime minister alleged the federal government was employing different methods to rig the elections and thus sending a wrong message across the Line of Control. The steps would cause harm to the Kashmir cause and weaken Pakistan’s case, he added.

He alleged that federal ministers during the election campaign in AJK were using unparliamentary language against the AJK prime minister and ministers and the PPP leadership, and even did not hesitate to use filthy and abusive language.

In a rejoinder to a federal minister’s question about Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s Kashmir policy, he said the PPP’s Kashmir policy was well known and recalled that the late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had vowed to fight for 1,000 years for Kashmir.

He said the government had kept mum for days after the killing of Muslims in India-held Kashmir. He alleged that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had friendly relations with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi and did not want to annoy him by speaking against Indian brutalities.

He also alleged that Mr Sharif was sacrificing national interest for the sake of his business interests in India.

The PPP leader criticised a statement of the Punjab chief minister on gifting nine refugee seats of Kashmiris in Punjab.

He said the federal government had hoodwinked people before the 2013 general elections by claiming to transform Pakistan into an ‘Asian tiger’ and rid people of power loadshedding and price hike. The party was doing the same in the AJK, he added.

Published in Dawn, July 19th, 2016