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'Witty, gentleman,' Pakistani relatives recall moments spent with Scotland's 1st Muslim leader


“Witty, easy to mingle with, and a thorough gentleman,” Pakistani relatives recall moments spent with Humza Yousaf, who was elected as Scotland's 1st Muslim leader.

A paternal uncle of the new leader of the Scots, Manzoor Hussain was checking school copies at his home in Mian Channu of Punjab province when he heard of the big news that his nephew, Humza Yousaf, was elected as the new leader of Scotland.

The history-making development was received with a surprise across the world but for Hussain, and other family members dwelling back in Pakistan, "it was very much expected."

"We were expecting this news since long as we knew that it's just a matter of time, considering his (Yousaf) vigorous nature and profound involvement in Scotland's politics," said Hussain.

Manzoor Hussain, uncle of Humza Yousuf

“I was informed by my wife who is currently in Edinburgh over the telephone that Humza has been elected (as SNP leader). It was exciting news for me but not at all surprising,” he told Anadolu.

Yousaf, 37, was sworn in as Scotland’s sixth First Minister on Wednesday, becoming the first-ever Muslim leader of any Western European country.

Read more: Scotland’s ‘Pakistani’ leader

He replaced Nicola Sturgeon as head of the Scottish National Party (SNP) to become the first Muslim to lead a major UK party and the first ethnic minority leader of a devolved government in the UK.

He was elected to the role of the first minister by members of the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday.

Yousaf, who joined the SNP in 2005, was also the first South Asian and first Muslim Cabinet secretary to serve in the Scottish government.

In May 2011, he was elected to the Scottish Parliament for the Glasgow region at the age of 26, becoming the youngest-ever MSP at that time.

Though Yousaf was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1985, his grandparents had moved to the country in 1962 from Mian Channu in Punjab, Pakistan. His mother, also of South Asian descent, emigrated to Scotland from Kenya.

Yousaf’s extensive family still dwells in Mian Channu, located some 250 kilometres (155 miles) from the provincial capital Lahore.

From Mian Channu to Edinburgh

Hussain who teaches arts subjects at a local government school said that Yousaf's grandfather had first moved to Kuwait in 1960 along with Yousaf's father who was barely 11 years old. The family later emigrated to Glasgow after a few years.

His ancestral home is located in the middle of a busy street known as "Rail Bazaar," presenting a sorry state of affairs.

Once a spacious place to live, the lower portion of the two-story building has been converted into shops, whereas the upper portion has decayed.

Yousaf visited his ancestral town only once – in 2009 – to attend the wedding of his other uncle, a Scottish national but married to his relative from Mian Channu, according to Hussain.

Humza Yousuf with his cousin Danish Manzoor during his 2009 visit to Mian Chunnu

“Although Yousaf has physically visited us only once, he still remains in touch with his cousins and other family members both in the UK and Mian Channu,” he added.

Yousaf, hailing from an ethnic Rajput community, stayed for 10 days at Hussain's Jinnah Town residence in Mian Channu in 2009.

Recalling Yousaf's visit, Hussain said that Scotland's new leader appeared to be "curious and candid" towards his family roots and members.

"He, at that time, was a parliament member and pursuing his political science degree. He appeared to me an ambitious person, who had already set his goal," he went on to say.

Rafi Anwar Chohan, a cousin of Yousaf's father, recalled his "good sense of humour."

"He was witty and easy to mingle with. I found him as a thorough gentleman," he told Anadolu.


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