ONBOARD PAK 002 - Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s wish is to be “wicket out, not caught out”. Speaking on board the special plane to London, he elaborated that while all political leaders made their “dying declarations” once they were out of power, he would be the first to do them while still in his position as Prime Minister. “I want to be able to say, yes. Yes, I did fight. I fought for the protection of the constitution.” Referring to the conviction for contempt, after notice taken by the Supreme Court, the PM mused, “How can the complainant of a case also be the one who decides its fate in a court system? Also, there can be no question of a disqualification on a civil charge, with a punishment of less than two years. Even Mian Nawaz Sharif was fined Rs 1500 when he was caught speeding on the motorway. He was convicted as PM, so why was he not then disqualified?” The Prime Minister reminded the gathering of reporters in the cabin that he appeared personally before the Supreme Court three times. He said he was surprised a decision was handed down so hastily, especially as he had shown that he would appear whenever summoned and a fourth appearance would not have been regretted if a detailed interpretation had been handed down, in one go - instead of being preceded by a short one. The PM was disappointed that he was singled out for special attention as he was the only person appearing who was not given a free copy of his conviction when he left court, against traditional practice. A TV anchor confirmed that on the day in question, when asked, up until 4pm, the PM’s offices had still not received an official copy of the conviction. “All Bar Associations have advised me to wait for a detailed judgement before I file my appeal.”

The expected route in the next few weeks is that an appeal would follow the detailed order. Should the appeal be rejected, the speaker would be required to see if a question of disqualification had arisen. Should she feel that a question has arisen, the matter would then be referred from her office to the Chief Election Commissioner’s. Pointing to the impending announcement of a new chief election commissioner, the PM said the big question was: who would disqualify him - meaning, who would be the next CEC?

The lucky man to next occupy this post is likely expected to be Shakirullah Jan. “I asked Chaudhary Nisar before the trial to sit with me and come to a consensus on the candidate for CEC. He kept delaying on pretence of consulting with his party leader.” The PM named Syed Khursheed Shah as a witness to this conversation. He added that he had naively believed Ch Nisar, who wished him good luck on the day of the trial. After the trial, the PM sent a letter suggesting three names for the CEC candidate, in reply to which he received a missive from the Opposition Leader, informing him that he no longer recognised him as Prime Minister.

The PM scoffed at the possibility of a long march and said he had never heard of a democracy where a long march in solidarity with the judiciary was being hosted by a clutch of political parties.

The Prime Minister seemed so relaxed on board the special plane to London, that he even found time to offer kindly advice to what he saw as a beleaguered opposition. “If they are really serious, they (PML-N) should resign, get together with Imran Khan. In that case, maybe, maybe they may succeed. If they do not follow this formula, there is a real danger for them that we may again be forming the next government. Frankly, I am hurt by their attitude. Even when they were convicted for 9 years in exile, we did not taunt them even once. I still speak of Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif with the utmost respect. The PML-N is in government everywhere, in every province. They want to be in government and agitate against it at the same time. For one federating unit to agitate against another federating unit is treason. Imran Khan is threatening to them, because he is definitely not in government. He is giving them good advice, if they do not resign, they cannot dislodge us. But the PML-N is not willing to burn its boats. There is no history to be made without resignations. Stop playing to the gallery and then backing away. You need our help, even to defeat us. Our coalition government has a two-thirds majority in the Parliament. Why should I listen to those fringe voices who are anti-democratic? If you want to get rid of the Prime Minister, bring a vote of no confidence. I’m ready.”

The next budget, which is due at the end of May, is a historic 5th budget by a democratic government. The Prime Minister’s anticipation was that the opposition would try anything to avoid passing the budget. “...But the budget will pass like that!” said the PM, with a dramatic snap of his fingers.

With an opposition bent on extending its time in government to the maximum possible, in order to have a say in the formation of a caretaker government and to benefit from the extra time in the assemblies to prepare for general elections in early 2013 - the scene looks set for Mr Gilani to stick around for some time yet. Whatever their ‘moral’ grounds, the opposition has not yet succeeded in finding legal grounds to oust the Prime Minister.

During his 4-day stay, the Prime Minister is scheduled for meetings with the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, Leader of the Opposition, Ed Milliband, Foreign Minister, William Hague, Secretary DFID, Andrew Mitchell, Minister of Trade and Investment, Lord Green, Secretary Defence, Philip Hammond, as well as Home Secretary, Theresa May and the Secretary for Energy, Edward Davey. He will also be attending the state opening of Parliament, by HM, The Queen. The Duke of York is expected to receive him at Buckingham Palace for tea.

The Prime Minister departed for London at 12:25pm, local time, from Chaklala Air Base, Islamabad. The long-scheduled trip to the United Kingdom comes in the aftermath of his conviction for contempt of court by the Supreme Court. He is accompanied by his entourage and members of the press, all of whom, including the author of this report - have come under stinging criticism for accompanying a “convicted” Prime Minister. As is the responsibility of any reporter on the trip, I am bound to report all its circumstances, even if they paint us, the reporters, in a less than favourable light. In such a situation, I think our readers can safely assume that I will be offering the same treatment to coverage of the PM in the UK, putting to rest any ideas that a seat on Pakistan Two guarantees positive coverage.