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Gilani: From district council chairman to PM-in-waiting

55-year-old Gilani, declared as prime ministerial candidate of PPP, belongs to an influential religious and political family of Multan.

world Updated: Mar 23, 2008 15:54 IST

From his humble beginning as the chairman of a district council in Punjab province, veteran PPP leader Yousuf Raza Gilani has been thrust into the limelight as the man who will lead Pakistan's new government that will grapple with challenges ranging from terrorism to an increasing inflation.

55-year-old Gilani, declared last night as the prime ministerial candidate of Pakistan People's Party (PPP), which is set to head a coalition government, belongs to an influential religious and political family of Multan.

The election of Gilani as prime minister in the National Assembly on Monday is a certainty given the majority the incoming PPP-PML (N) coalition has in the lower house of Parliament.

Gilani began his political career with the Pakistan Muslim League during the reign of military ruler Gen Zia-ul-Haq in 1978. He joined the PPP in 1988 and rose to the post of vice chairman of the party in a decade.

Along the way, he served as Speaker of the National Assembly or lower house of Parliament during 1993-97 and federal minister during 1985-88. Since joining the PPP, he has been a loyal and steadfast supporter of the Bhutto family.

Gilani is a descendant of Hazrat Musa Pak, a leading spiritual figure of Multan who hailed from Gilan in Iran. His father Alamdar Hussain Gilani was a signatory to the Pakistan Resolution, the 1940 document that laid the ground for the creation of Pakistan.
His grandfather Ghulam Mustafa Shah Gilani and paternal uncle Raza Shah Gilani were both MLAs in the 1940s. Gilani's great-grandfather Raja Bakhsh Gillani was Mayor of Multan in 1921 and a member of the Central Legislative Assembly of India.

After completing his schooling at St Mary's Convent School in Multan, Gilani graduated from Lahore's Government College and secured a master's degree in journalism from Punjab University.

Gilani, who like his father and grandfather bears the spiritual title of "Makhdoom", started his political career after the death of his father in 1978. He was soon elected chairman of Multan's district council.

In 1985, Gilani was elected as a member of the National Assembly for the first time from Lodhran district and became minister for housing and works and railways in the government of Mohammed Khan Junejo.

Three years later, he joined the PPP and defeated sitting Punjab Chief Minister Nawaz Sharif in the polls. He was re-elected to the National Assembly in 1990 and 1993 but lost the polls in 1997, when the PPP did not win any seats in Punjab province.

In 2001, an anti-corruption court awarded Gilani a 10-year prison term and fined him Rs 100 million in a controversial case related to some illegal appointments he had allegedly made during his tenure as Speaker. He spent four years in jail, during which his sister and mother died.

In October 2006, Gilani's prison term was set aside by the Punjab High Court and he was released on bail. Gilani could have secured his release from jail by ditching the PPP but refused to do so. He wrote a book while in jail and the book was well received across the country.

In this book, Gillani shares his experience with the readers, a first hand account of Pakistan's political leaders and their contribution to the political system starting from Zia Ul Haq and ending with the current Musharraf regime.

Gilani, a father of five, was made senior vice chairman of the PPP in 1998. In last month's general election, he returned to the National Assembly by defeating a federal minister.