ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has shown his optimism that the Supreme Court will not convict him but if it happens so he will automatically lose office, so there is no need for him to quit.

In a wide-ranging interview with Al Jazeera TV broadcast on Saturday, the prime minister said: “My lawyer is extremely capable and I do not think it would happen like this”.

Prime minister said corruption charges against president were “politically motivated” and that the president had immunity as head of state.

Gilani’s statements were aired on the eve of a hearing at which the premier faces indictment for contempt of court over his refusal to request the reopening of corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.

“There had been a lot of cases against him, and they were all politically motivated,” Gilani said, referring to Zardari.

He said Zardari had spent five years in jail but was later exonerated by the courts in Pakistan. He said the president was elected by the National Assembly, Senate and the four provincial assemblies and he is part of the parliament and enjoys immunity in Pakistan and the world over. “He has got immunity. And he has not got immunity only in Pakistan, he has transnational immunity, even all over the world.” Asked if he would rather resign for the sake of the president, Gilani said if convicted of contempt, he would automatically lose office, so there was no need for him to quit.

“There’s no need to step down,” he said. “If I’m convicted, then I’m not supposed to be a member of the parliament.”

Monday’s expected indictment of Gilani pushes political crisis into a new phase. It is unlikely to lead to the fall of the government, but will continue to paralyse the country, analysts say. Asked if the civilian government was more powerful or the military, Gilani said under the Constitution, the prime minister is the chief executive and running the country. He said presently he enjoyed good relations with the military.

He said he did not know that Osama bin Laden was in Pakistan. He rejected the impression that ISI knew about the presence of bin Laden and said if ISI had known it, it would have been known to the entire world because of advancement in technology. He said ISI and CIA worked very closely and arrested high value targets and he was under the impression that bin Laden was killed with the information of ISI. He however said it became clear later that it was a unilateral action by the US which he said was against the sovereignty of Pakistan.

Gilani also criticised US drone attacks on militants in tribal areas as counterproductive because it undermined his government’s efforts to separate tribes from militants, leaving “less political space” for the government.

He said the present government never authorised them. He said former president had some understanding with the US because he was having all the posts of president, chief executive, chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and army chief.

“I want to inform you that we did not allow or give permission to fly drones from Pakistan,” he said.

“Number two, drones are counterproductive. And we had discussed thoroughly with the US administration that we at times make a lot of efforts to very successfully isolate militants from the local tribes.”

He pointed out that Pakistan suffered a loss of $69 billion in the war on terror.

About the hunting down of the drones, Gilani said the Parliamentary Committee on National Security finalised recommendations about new terms of engagement with the US and on supply lines to US and NATO-led forces which would be debated by the parliament and whatever the recommendations, these would be implemented by the government.

Pakistan, he said, backed any Afghan-led peace plan to establish peace in the neighbouring country and in no way supported Taliban insurgents.

Asked about the future of Afghanistan, Gilani said Pakistan would support any Afghan-led peace initiative and did not back the Afghan Taliban to take over.

“We are not supporting them. It’s not our job. Why should we support them?”

He said: “It’s the job of Afghanistan to decide about their future. Our role is as a facilitator, we are part of the solution and not part of the problems.”

It is in Pakistan’s interest to have a “stable, sovereign, independent and prosperous Afghanistan,” he said.

The people of Afghanistan should decide the destiny of their country and Pakistan would accept whatever they choose, Gilani said.

“The NATO, ISAF and the US will finally leave (Afghanistan) but we, as neighbours, we have to stay for the rest of our lives,” the premier said.

In response to another question, Gilani acknowledged that there were a “lot of misunderstandings” between India and Pakistan but the two countries “can’t afford wars”.

“We both realise that, we both are nuclear powers. Therefore, after I became the prime minister, I requested (Prime Minister) Manmohan Singh to discuss issues with him,” he said.

Dr Singh “seems to be a very genuine person and we have agreed to discuss all our core issues, including the issue of Kashmir”, Gilani said.

The important issues between the two sides include Kashmir, the water issue, Sir Creek, Siachen, human rights and drug-trafficking, he said.

Following the resumption of bilateral dialogue, the secretaries of both countries have discussed these issues and the two foreign ministers are set to meet, he added.

Asked about reports that Israel could attack Iran over its nuclear programme, Gilani said: “We are for peace in the region. Our plate is full, we don’t want to destabilise the region. For all issues, it should be done through dialogue.”