Judiciary cannot disqualify me: Gilani

Islamabad: A defiant Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani today said there is no law under which Pakistan`s judiciary can disqualify him, days after his conviction by the Supreme Court for contempt.

Gilani, the longest-ruling Pakistan Premier, said that he intended to continue as premier despite calls from opposition parties to resign, saying only the Speaker of the National Assembly or lower house of parliament could disqualify him.

"I have served as the Speaker, a member of parliament and a federal minister there is no law under which the judiciary can disqualify a public representative," Gilani said while interacting with the media on the sidelines of an official function in Islamabad.

"I will accept the Speaker`s decision, if she throws me out today I will return to the people," he said.

Under Article 248 (1) of the Constitution, Gilani said, he was free, totally independent and had "complete immunity in the discharge of my duties".

Gilani questioned why the judiciary and the main opposition PML-N were in a rush to see him ousted from the post of premier. "Why are they in such a hurry that the right of appeal or even the full judgement is not given to me," he asked.

A seven-judge bench of the apex court convicted Gilani of contempt on April 26 and gave him a symbolic sentence of less than a minute for refusing to revive graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.

The court has so far issued only a short order though some legal experts have contended that Gilani`s conviction could lead to his disqualification as a parliamentarian.

The government has said the Speaker has 30 days to decide on any possible move to disqualify Gilani, following which the Election Commission will have a further 90 days to settle the matter.

PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif is among the opposition politicians who have demanded Gilani`s resignation. Gilani has maintained that he will not quit as he was not convicted of any criminal offence. "Some people are saying I should resign on moral grounds. What moral crime have I committed? I have not been convicted for corruption. I will work according to the Constitution," Gilani said.

He added that he would appeal against the apex court`s verdict once he received the detailed order. "I am a representative of the people and not the PML-N that I will come and go at their bidding," Gilani said.

He said Nawaz Sharif and his brother, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, were interpreting the court`s verdict to suit their ends. He also pointed out that Nawaz Sharif had been convicted following a military coup in 1999 but had appealed the verdict only after nine years.

The premier further questioned the handling of his case and other cases by the apex court, saying there should be "no double standards" on the part of the judiciary. The punishment should match the crime as people were questioning the decision made in the contempt case against him, Gilani said.

Referring to a 16-year-old case about the funding of politicians, including PML-N leaders, by the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, Gilani noted that the apex court had not acted as swiftly in this matter. "The case is not being heard but there was a quick decision in my case. All cases should be taken up quickly as people want even-handedness and equal treatment for all," he said.