Cablegate: Potential Pakistani Prime Minister Yousef Raza
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FM AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ISLAMABAD 000970
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/28/2018
TAGS: PGOV PK PREL
SUBJECT: POTENTIAL PAKISTANI PRIME MINISTER YOUSEF RAZA
Classified By: Anne W. Patterson, Reasons 1.4 (b), (d)
1. (C) Summary: This is one of several profiles on political leaders who will play a large role in Pakistan's new government. The Pakistan People's Party (PPP) is in the process of coalition negotiations on forming a government but still faces a leadership struggle within its own ranks. With his separate power base in the party, Amin Faheem remains the probable front-runner for the job as Prime Minister, but PPP Co-Chair Asif Zardari sees Faheem as personally weak and politically positioned to rival Zardari. Makhdoom Syed Yousef Raza Gillani, Vice Chairman of the Pakistan People's Party, has been proposed as an alternative to Faheem. Gillani is a seasoned politician who descends from a politically and spiritually influential family in southern Punjab's Multan district; he won a National Assembly seat from Multan in the 2008 parliamentary elections. End Summary.
2. (SBU) Gillani entered politics as a Member of the Central Working Committee of the United Muslim League (1978) and was elected in 1983 as Chairman of the District Council, Multan.
Gillani was elected to the National Assembly as an independent in the non-party elections of 1985 and was appointed Minister for Housing and Works, Railways, Urban Affairs, and Environment.
3. (SBU) In 1988, Gillani clashed with then Pakistan Muslim League (PML) Prime Minister Muhammad Khan Junejo and decided to join the PPP. He was reelected on a PPP ticket in 1988 and appointed Minister of Tourism and Housing and Works.
Gillani won a National Assembly seat in 1990, defeating then-head of the Gillani family, Makhdoom Syed Hamid Raza Gillani. He was reelected in the 1993 elections and became Speaker of the National Assembly of Pakistan (1993-1996)
under Benazir Bhutto. Gillani lost his seat in the 1997 election, but has been Vice Chairman of the PPP since 1998.
Gillani was just elected to the National Assembly from Southern Punjab's Multan district, where he defeated an incumbent who was a Federal Minister for Food in the previous government.
4. (C) Gillani was arrested on February 10, 2001 under corruption charges and sentenced by an accountability court to five years imprisonment and a fine of 1 million rupees. He was charged with misuse of authority and convicted for causing a loss of 10.6 million rupees through the ""misuse"" of official transport, official telephones, setting up camp offices at Lahore and Multan, and for purchasing luxury vehicles at higher than market prices. While in jail, Gillani authored a book about his political history and imprisonment, titled ""Chah-e-Yousaf Say Sada,"" which loosely translates to ""from the well where Prophet Joseph was dumped by his brothers."" In October 2006 the Lahore High Court approved the appeal of his sentence and ordered his release.
5. (SBU) Gillani married in 1979 and has five children, including triplet sons. His eldest son, Syed Abdul Qadir Gillani attended Cambridge University and unsuccessfully contested the February 2008 parliamentary elections for a seat from Multan. Qadir also is engaged to the granddaughter of Pir Sahib Pagaro, who is president of the PML-Functional and a Sindhi spiritual and political leader. Gillani is related to a number of other influential Pakistani politicians. His father-in-law, Pir Israr Hussain Shah was a politically and religiously influential Sindhi leader who was a Sindhi senator from 1991 to 1998.
6. (C) Gillani was born in Karachi on June 9, 1952. He attended school in Multan at St. Mary's Convent and La Salle, a Christian missionary high school. His father served as a provincial minister and minister of state in the 1950s, but wished Gillani would become a doctor. Gillani instead obtained a B.A. with Honors in English Literature from Government College and a Master's degree in journalism from Lahore's Punjab University.
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7. (C) Comment: Gillani is a charismatic leader with strong popular support, particularly in the southern Punjab and parts of northern Sindh. Following his release from prison in late 2006, Gillani attempted to reassert himself as leader of the PPP's Punjab party, launching a well-received and well-publicized speaking tour of the province. Benazir Bhutto, who strongly resented Gillani's rising popularity, attempted to undermine his attempts at provincial leadership by appointing his political and spiritual rival from Multan, Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi, as the party's Punjab President. Gillani, who was strongly offended by the move, opened ultimately unsuccessful negotiations with the PML on a possible defection.
8. (C) Gillani, who sees Qureshi as a late entry to the PPP, a potential turncoat with few political principles, and a ""false"" spiritual leader, has actively tried to undermine Qureshi with the party's rank and file. Gillani is equally uncomfortable working with central Punjab leaders Qasim Zia and Jehangir Bader, who head their own factions within the Punjab PPP. Gillani has, however, at varying times cut working relationships with Zia and Bader against Qureshi. In an attempt to balance the Punjab party, Benazir allowed all four leaders and their supporters an equal number of seats, which led to serious conflicts at the grassroots level.
Gillani has been troubled by Zardari's public embrace of Shah Mehmood Qureshi as leader of the Punjab PPP in the aftermath of Benazir's assassination. He has repeatedly attempted to convince Zardari that he, not Qureshi, should receive the Co-Chairman's endorsement and backing as leader within the Punjab.
9. (C) Zardari is equally upset that Makhdoom Amin Faheem, who held the same rank as Gillani within the party hierarchy at the time of Benazir's death, was taken both domestically and internationally as her legitimate successor. In meetings, Gillani has repeatedly pointed out that he held the position of Vice Chair longer than Faheem and should have been treated as the senior member and elevated to Senior Vice Chairman of the party. While Gillani respects Faheem and has no discernible personal rivalry with him, he has been avidly touting himself as an alternative for the Prime Ministerial office that Faheem covets. End Comment.