Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani on Friday made it amply clear that he would not quit over his conviction by the Supreme Court in a contempt of court case. Only Parliament had a right to decide and “if this House decides to de-notify me, I will be honoured and I will leave that very moment”, he said.

In a combative mode a day after his conviction and 37-second-long arrest, he said this in the National Assembly in reaction to the opposition's refusal to accept him as Premier any longer. Asking the opposition to respect the mandate of the people, he challenged his detractors to bring a motion of no-confidence against him.

Evidently buoyed by the victory of his party in the by-election to the Multan Provincial Assembly seat — for which polling took place on Thursday when news of his conviction ruled the headlines — Mr. Gilani added: “But if they want to conspire and get rid of me through the backdoor, then they have been told what is in store for them in Multan yesterday.” The Pakistan People's Party won the seat for the first time since 1988.

According to him, those who are demanding his resignation are doing so in the hope that it would lead to the dissolution of the National Assembly. Then they would say electoral rolls were not ready and make out a case for a technocrat government, he said. “This is unacceptable,” he said, adding that he had not been convicted of financial corruption or moral turpitude but for protecting the Constitution.

Further, he disclosed that he was getting congratulatory messages from across the country on his “principled stance”. “I did not get so many congratulations when I became Prime Minister as I did for this conviction because it is for protecting the Constitution.”

About his refusal to abide by the Supreme Court's directive to write to the Swiss courts seeking reopening of graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari, he maintained that the head of the state enjoyed immunity as was the case in most countries. He also pointed out that presidential immunity was guaranteed under the Constitution and all parties were involved in the Constitution review that was completed just two years ago.

Even as the government dug its heels in, the two main opposition parties — Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf — said they would step up pressure on the government to force the resignation of Mr. Gilani. Both parties have separately threatened to take the battle to the streets.

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