Born on June 9, 1952 in Karachi, Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani received his early education at St. Mary’s Convent School and La Salle High School, Multan. After completing his higher school he joined Forman Christian College, Lahore from where he completed his intermediate level studies. He graduated from the renowned Government College, Lahore and got his Masters degree in Journalism from the Punjab University.
Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani began his political career in 1978 as member of Central Working Committee of a leading political party PML. He served as Federal Minister for Housing and Works and later for Railways between 1985 and 1986. In 1988 he joined the Pakistan Peoples Party and became a Minister in the federal cabinet with the portfolios of Tourism and later Housing and Works till 1990. He took oath of the office of Minister for Local Government and Rural Development in 1993 during the interim government. He was elected as Speaker of the National Assembly of Pakistan in 1993 and held this responsibility up to 1997.
Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani hails from an influential and spiritual family of Multan which enjoyed respect and recognition in the area since 1921. His father Makhudum Alamdar Hussain Gilani was a leading politician of Multan who played a significant role in Pakistan Movement. He was one of the signatories of the Pakistan resolution in 1940. Makhudum Alamdar Hussain Gilani was a member of Feroz Khan Noon’s Cabinet in 1953 in Punjab and 1958 at the Federal level. He was known for his social work and greatly contributed in establishing educational institutions in Multan.
Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani is known for being polite yet firm in his dealings. It was for the same reason that he remained imprisoned for five years. He was released from Adiala jail on October 7, 2006. During the period of his incarceration he wrote a book titled ‘Chah-e-Yousuf se Sada’ (Cry from the Yousuf’s Well). He has an ear for music, reads poetry and has a desire to serve the have-nots of his motherland.
Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani has widely traveled across the world in various capacities. He led Pakistani delegations to a number of international conferences. As Federal Minister for Tourism, he attended the World Tourism Organization’s meeting held in Paris, France in 1989. He also attended a meeting of Pakistan Association of Travel Agents held in New Delhi, the same year.
As Speaker National Assembly of Pakistan, Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani led Pakistani parliamentarians’ delegations to several Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Conferences that include; the 91st Conference held in Paris in 1994, the 92nd Conference held in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1995, the 94th Conference held in Bucharest, Romania in 1995, the 95th Conference held in Istanbul Turkey in 1996. He addressed the United Nations on the occasion of its Golden Jubilee celebrations arranged by IPU. Earlier in 1987, as a young member of Parliamentary Delegation, he participated in the 87th meeting of the IPU held in Cameron.
Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani actively participated in the Commonwealth activities. He attended the Conferences of the Speakers/Presiding Officers of the Commonwealth countries held in Papua New Guinea in 1994, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 1995, in Bali, Indonesia in 1995 and in Nicosia, Cyprus in 1996. He also visited United Kingdom to participate in the 50 years celebrations of the end of 2nd World War by Commonwealth, where he also had a meeting with the Speaker, House of Commons.
As the leader of parliamentary delegations, Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani attended the 1st Conference of SAARC Countries’ Speakers in New Delhi and the 1st PAK-PAC meeting in Las Vegas. In the same capacity, he also visited Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Nepal, Maldives, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Australia, Papua New Guinea and Hungary. The other countries where he represented the country include; Hong Kong, Singapore, Netherlands, Macao, Burma, Thailand, Greece, Japan, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and UAE. He participated in Climate - the Change Conference held in Manila, Philippines in 1996. He also undertook a study visit to Johannesburg, South Africa, organized by National Democratic Institute (NDI) on accountability system in 1997.
As part of the Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s entourage, Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani visited several countries, which include Peoples Republic of China, India, Turkmenistan and Turkey. He represented Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto in the annual International Convention of Social Democratic Party in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1990, and later the same year in Italy. He also hosted and presided over the first ever international Conference of Women Parliamentarians, held in Islamabad in 1995.