Pakistan's prime minister refused to step down Friday as he made a defiant appearance in parliament a day after his conviction over a corruption investigation into the president.
Yousuf Raza Gilani faced opposition calls to quit after the Supreme Court convicted him of contempt for refusing to write to Swiss authorities asking them to reopen a multi-million-dollar graft probe into President Asif Ali Zardari.
His lawyer has said he will appeal against the verdict, which made him the first sitting premier in Pakistan's history to be convicted, and Gilani said only parliament had the authority to remove him from office.
"There is no law to remove an elected prime minister, parliament is the supreme authority and only this parliament has the authority to remove me," he said.
Nawaz Sharif, the head of the main opposition Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) said Thursday that Gilani should quit to avoid pushing the country into "further crisis".
"I am an elected prime minister, representing 180 million people. How can any body order an elected prime minister to go home?" Gilani said.
"Only the speaker of the house, who is the custodian of this house, has the authority to decide."
The conviction opened the way for proceedings to remove him as a lawmaker, but addressing the speaker, Gilani said: "I will step down only if you de-notify me. I will accept if this parliament disqualify me."
Though it looks unlikely to bring down the coalition government led by Gilani's Pakistan People's Party (PPP), Thursday's ruling is likely to cause fresh uncertainty in a country already struggling with Islamist militancy and economic woes.
Legal experts say the process to remove Gilani from office, which involves the speaker referring the matter to the Election Commission, could drag on for months.
Gilani urged the speaker, who is a PPP member, to apply her "own mind" and "own legal assessment" on the case and said his conscience was clear over the Swiss letter.
"I have not committed a crime, I have done nothing wrong but I have protected the constitution of this country," he said.
The Zardari allegations date back to the 1990s when he and his late wife, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, are accused of using Swiss bank accounts to launder about $12 million in bribes from companies seeking customs inspection contracts.
Gilani has always insisted Zardari has full immunity as head of state and last month said that writing to the Swiss would be a violation of the constitution.
The case has been highly politically charged, with members of the government accusing judges of over-stepping their reach and of trying to bring down the prime minister and president, a year before the administration would become the first in Pakistan to complete an elected term.