LONDON - Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani Saturday vowed to protect the constitution at all costs and not to be deterred by any threat.

“Come what may I will protect the Constitution of Pakistan, I will go to the last limit and exhaust all my options and exercise my right to appeal,” Gilani told a large gathering of leaders and workers of Pakistan People’s Party here at a local hotel. The Prime Minister said his case was related to the interpretation of the constitution of the country and his only crime was protecting the constitution.

He said, “I am not one of those who will stab the party in the back as I believe that under the Article 248 of the Constitution and Vienna Convention the President of Pakistan has complete immunity and he is not required to write any letter, as it is a violation of the Constitution.”

The PM expressing resolve to protect the country said, “We will reject any unconstitutional step in Pakistan.”

Gilani said the opposition wanted him to resign on moral grounds. “But I want to know that hundreds of cases are lying pending with the courts and I wish that a decision is taken on these cases as well.”

He said there were a number of cases against Sharifs pending with the National Accountability Bureau and especially the Mehran Bank case for the past 20 years, besides several other cases with the judiciary.

He questioned that while cases against Sharif were pending in the courts, how they are taking out rallies in support of judiciary. Would it not embarrass the judiciary?”

Gilani said there was no law for the contempt of court in the country and even Babar Awan had not been charge sheeted, yet he had been convicted.

He said there was also a contempt of court case related to the chief justice against a police official but it was also lying pending.

During the address interspersed with loud slogans of support from the large gathering of PPP workers here on the last day of his five-day visit to the United Kingdom, Gilani said certain self-created leaders were now through their ‘so-called’ public gatherings, trying in vain to tell the world that he was no longer the prime minister of the country.

On the contrary, he said, the leadership of the United Kingdom received him at all three important fora of the Parliament, the government and Royalty.

“We do not care if you do not accept me. The world acknowledges me, the constitution of Pakistan recognises me, the people of Pakistan recognise me,” he added.

“Who are you, the one who was convicted for hijacking a plane?” Gilani asked.

Prime Minister Gilani said the judiciary gave General Musharraf the right to oust Nawaz, and gave approval to all his acts. Why the party did not raise a voice for a long march at that stage?.

Gilani said Sharif left the country after a plea bargain, which was a confession and pledged not to be part of any politics for 10 years.

He termed it an act, shameful for any politician. He recalled that Javed Hashmi had himself said that for years they claimed there was no deal with the dictator, but when Sharif returned he himself gave a statement saying actually it was for five years and not 10.

Gilani regretted that PPP inked the Charter of Democracy with Sharif.

He quoted late Nasrullah Khan who regretted that Nawaz Sharif and his family left secretly in the dark of night with 40 suitcases and remarked that it was the first time that he was dealing with a businessman, who has nothing to do with politics or a commitment to the party or the country.

Gilani said the entire politics of Nawaz Sharif revolves around creating disruption in traffic, burning tyres and causing lawlessness. He said it was also for the first time that a province was leading protests against the federation, which in itself was an act of high treason.

Gilani also shared the decisions taken at a recent energy conference in Lahore, where it was decided to have two-weekly offs and closing down businesses early to save electricity, but the Sharif brothers again declined to follow the decisions and were trying to launch protest against the government.

He said if the PML-Q and PPP decided to join hands in Punjab, they could easily form a government. He said the people of Pakistan have given the PPP the right to rule and it was successfully running a government with full support of its coalition partners.

He said those speaking of long march, are not even capable of a short march. He said it was again the PPP that strove for the freedom and strengthening of judiciary.

The gathering was also attended by prominent PPP leaders

Meanwhile, during in an interview with British Daily Telegraph, Gilani said Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was not in Pakistan and the US had failed to provide any ‘actionable information’ to suggest otherwise.

Gilani said, “Why should I think he (Zawahiri) is in Pakistan?” he asked.

The CIA and Pakistan’s ISI agency have been co-operating closely. “They should work together and if there is any credible, actionable information, share with us so that we should catch hold of him.”

Asked for his own view on whether Zawahiri was in Pakistan, Gilani replied, “We don’t think so.”

Replying to another question about Hafiz Saeed, he said there was insufficient evidence to warrant his arrest.

Replying to another question and about competition from Imran Khan in next general elections, the Prime Minister said, “In each and every election, there’s always a perception from the media that he’ll do better than before, but each time he doesn’t do better than before.”  He said,

He claimed his party would easily defeat PTI in upcoming elections.