Islamabad: Pakistan`s Prime Minister has challenged the opposition to unseat him in a fiery speech a day after he was convicted by the Supreme Court for contempt.
The speech on Friday by Yousuf Raza Gilani in Parliament signalled the Premier had no intention of resigning, and foreshadowed likely bitter political conflict.
Gilani was convicted for refusing to open a dormant corruption probe against his boss, President Asif Ali Zardari. But the court handed him a symbolic sentence of less than a minute`s detention. The government has said it will appeal the verdict while the Cabinet insisted there was no need for Gilani to resign on moral grounds.
The PM argued that the Constitution gives the President immunity from prosecution.
Gilani said his "crime was protecting the Constitution" and challenged opposition leaders to table a no-confidence motion against his rule "if they think they have principles and scruples and high moral grounds."
He further said that only the Speaker could disqualify him. "There is a custom that nobody but the Speaker can disqualify me. It cannot happen, there is no law or anything in the Constitution. Today if you (the Speaker) denotify me, I will leave right away. That is up to the custodian of the House," Gilani said in the National Assembly or lower house of Parliament.
Gilani challenged main opposition PML-N, which has sought his resignation, to bring a vote of no-confidence against him.
He contended the "ultimate authority is the Parliament because every institution derives powers from the Parliament."
Gilani said that he had not been convicted for "financial corruption or moral turpitude”, but for acting to protect the Constitution, which provides immunity to the President.
Besides, he pointed out, the matter related to his conviction was not closed as the government intended to appeal the court`s ruling.
There were several other steps related to his possible disqualification that would have to be taken by the Speaker and the Election Commission, he said.
"I`m the elected Prime Minister of 18 crore people. How can you just throw somebody out?" he said.
Gilani took several digs at former premier Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, whose PML-N was an ally of the ruling Pakistan People`s Party till a bitter falling out in 2008.
He said Nawaz Sharif too had been convicted by a court but the PPP had not made an issue of the matter though Sharif was exonerated after nine years.
"One brother says he doesn`t accept the President and the other brother says he doesn`t accept the Prime Minister while the PML-N says it doesn`t accept Imran Khan... They should respect the mandate of the people," he said sarcastically.
The Sharif brothers would not be able to run Parliament even "for a day because they have big egos," he said.
Gilani said he was not responsible for immunity granted to the President, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of a country by domestic laws and the Vienna Conventions.
The Premier expressed concern that any move to disqualify him could be part of efforts to dismiss the democratic government and install a regime of technocrats.
Gilani said the Parliament should remain irrespective of whether he was removed from the post of Prime Minister.
He said he would not allow anyone to "pack up the system" along with his possible removal.
Besides, the PPP`s politics of reconciliation should not be mistaken for weakness, he said.
The Supreme Court has been pressuring the government to reopen cases of alleged money laundering against Zardari in Switzerland since December 2009, when it struck down a graft amnesty issued by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf.
Gilani has refused to act, saying that the President enjoys immunity in Pakistan and abroad.
(With Agencies’ inputs)