Meeting with leading U.S. think tanks and thinkers, he parried key questions pertaining to nuclear security, threats to the regional and world security posed by current and former members of Pakistan's dreaded Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency and its controversial role in Afghanistan.
But questions about regional autonomy for the rebellious state of Baluchistan - scene of a bloody insurgency, which the Baluch call the "Fifth War of Liberation," may have been the most contentious.
Gilani was speaking at a meeting co-sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations and the Middle East Institute at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel in downtown Washington D.C. Tuesday evening.
Gilani is already under fire at home due to a YouTube video circulating in Pakistan and on the Internet that allegedly shows him inappropriately touching Sherry Rahman, now his information minister, at a public rally last year.
Among the ruling Pakistan People's Party old timers, Gilani is looked upon as someone who is close to the Punjabi establishment - Punjab is the bastion of Pakistan army - and making his entry into politics through the backdoor during the nonparty elections under former dictator General Ziaul Haq.
Gilani is believed to be close to billionaire smuggler-turned-developer Seth Abid. Abid in turn is a very close friend of retired Gen. Hamid Gul, a former chief of the ISI and an avowed enemy of the U.S. Gul is said to be one of the main strategists of the Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan, along with Maulana Fazlur Rahman, chief of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam.
Gilani, Abid and Gul are all from the dominant Punjab state.
While responding to some harsh questioning, Gilani preferred one-liner answers, much to chagrin of Richard N. Haass, president of the Council Foreign Relations and presiding host of the talk, which was themed "A Conversation with Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani, Prime Minister Islamic Republic of Pakistan."
Most of the U.S. intellectuals privately said they were extremely disappointed over Gilani's political I.Q.
"Dancing with the dictators have always come to haunt the world," Gillani said in reference to the preference of some U.S. politicians, including Vice President Dick Cheney, for working with despots.
The prime minister also poked fun at the U.S. for leaving a mess in Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal. "This is not Charlie Wilson's war, This is Benazir Bhutto's war," he joked. Gilani's comments sometimes seemed an effort to assuage President Bush's feelings over Pakistan's ISI secret links with the Taliban and al-Qaeda.
Charlie Wilson was a flamboyant, playboyish Democratic congressman from Texas who joined hands with the CIA to drive the Russians out of Afghanistan.
Over the last two years, Pakistan has been demanding extradition of Baluch opposition activists in exchange for known al-Qaeda terrorists, U.K. press reports said.
July 7, the day chosen for the Kabul attacks, marked the third anniversary of the London subway bombings that left 52 killed and 700 injured in the U.K. capital. The terrorists in that were mostly of Punjabi origin.
At least one high-profile alleged al Qaeda terrorist, Rashid Rauf, 26, who carried dual U.K.-Pakistani nationality, was arrested in Pakistan for the 2006 Transatlantic Airlines Plot to detonate bombs aboard a Western airliner. He mysteriously escaped from an Islamabad jail weeks before his extradition to Great Britain.
Rauf had links with Al Qaeda No. 2 Ayman Alzwahiri.
A Daily Telegraph report said Pakistan held back intelligence vital to Britain's counter-terrorism effort and co-operation with the campaign in neighboring Afghanistan on the grounds that Britain must first arrest Baluch political and human rights activists.
"His network is broken. He's nowhere," Gilani said, in response to Haass's question on the A.Q. Khan nuclear-secrets smuggling network, insisting the chapter is now closed. Khan. the former head of Pakistan's successful effort to build a nuclear bomb, was convicted of smuggling enrichment technology out of the Netherlands in 2004 and lost his job in January 2004. The Dutch conviction was thrown out on appeal.
In recent years, Khan has admitted passing nuclear secrets to Iran and Libya, which gave up its nuclear program in turn for normalization of relations with the United States, and is believed by some to have passed weapons secrets to North Korea.
Khan has publicly said the Pakistani army and the ISI were partners in his underworld nuclear weapons-plans bazaar.
Khan's exposure of the army and ISI was making huge headlines, but those news stories got buried after a bomb attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul that left more than 40 killed and 150 injured. Afghan and Indian officials accused Pakistan of being responsible in that attack. The C.I.A. concurs with this view, the New York Times has reported.
According to the New York Times report, C.I.A. deputy director Stephen R. Kappes presented foolproof evidence to Pakistan about ISI ties with some militant groups that were possibly responsible for the suicide bombing this month of the Indian Embassy in Kabul that left 58 people dead and 150 injured.
Pakistan army dubbed the Times report as baseless.
President Bush had promised the U.S. would investigate the Afghani claims of ISI involvement in the bomb attack.
The matter of Pakistan army's role in international nuclear proliferation can not be dismissed lightly, insists Dr. Wahid Baloch, president of the Baloch Society of North America.
"Khan has committed crimes against the Baluch people by testing an atomic bomb in Chagai. He has committed crimes against humanity, in partnership with the Pakistani army, by running a nuclear flea market promoting nuclear technology to rogue states like
Iran, North Korea and Libya," he said.
The Baluch opposed Pakistan's nuclear tests, conducted on May 27, 1998, in Baluchistan and claim those tests destroyed hundreds of square miles of their nomadic lands. "The tests showed the plight of Baluchistan is worse than Darfur. I want to take the Pakistan army generals to answer before the International Criminal Court at the Hague," Baloch said.
To the applause of a planeload of mostly Punjabi and Mohajir [descendants of Urdu-speaking Indians] journalists that Gilani brought with him from Pakistan, the Pakistani premier passed the buck onto the U.S. when asked about the challenges he faced in dealing with the I.S.I.
Gilani recalled the ISI was a close friend and favorite of the U.S., alluding to the period when the ISI worked as proxy for the C.I.A. during the war in Afghanistan to drive out the former Red Army.
"No head of government will say his secret service is trying to screw him up," comments Frederic Grare, visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who listened to Gilani's talk.
Wahid Baloch said the only way to rid the world of the ISI was a balkanization of Pakistan on the lines of the former Soviet Union.
Haass repeated his question, asking again whether Gilani felt concerned about the integrity of his country, but the premier responded, "Ninety-nine percent of the people are patriots. Only a handful of them want to destabilize the country."
Baluchistan state, where more than 95 percent of the people want International Security Assistance Force in neighboring Afghanistan to replace the Pakistan army, according to one online poll, has been the hotbed of an insurgency - the fifth since the Texas-sized territory's controversial annexation to Pakistan in March 1948.
The standoff plunged into chaos on August 26, 2006, when the Pakistan army extra-judicially killed former governor and chief minister of Baluchistan, Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, 81, on the instruction of military hawks led by New Delhi-born former Gen. Pervez Musharraf.
Nawab Bugti was also the chief of the powerful Bugti tribe and head of a major political party.
Bugti's grandson, Nawab Brahamdagh Bugti, is now one of the main leaders of the Baluch resistance movement. He has said his struggle is meant for the ouster of Pakistan army from Baluch soil and the Baluch regaining sovereignty over their homeland. He has made it clear he will accept help from any quarter to defeat the Pakistan army.
Baluch nationalists said Pakistan's dominant Punjabis and Mohajirs do not want to address the core issue that they owe as much as $15 billion in unpaid monies for gas from Sui, ancestral lands of the Bugti tribe.
They argue Baluchistan was never a part of Pakistan but that the Texas-sized state was forcibly annexed by Pakistan in March 1948. They say they have proof to show their state maintained an independent existence for more than seven months after the British left
India divided in August 1947.
Immediately after Nawab Bugti's assassination, the de jure ruler of Baluchistan Khan of Kalat Suleman Daud Ahmedzai called a historic "jirga," or gathering, at his Shahi Mahal, or royal palace, in his native and historic Baluchistan town of Kalat. Nearly 100 powerful chiefs of various Baluch tribes and 400 notables were among 1,500 people from different walks of life in Baluchistan who attended the jirga under Ahmedzai's leadership.
Ahmedzai, whose ancestors have ruled Baluchistan since the mid-1600s, has sought asylum in the U.K., and is now seeking world support to get justice at the International Court of Justice at the Hague.
On a question on regional autonomy, Gilani said that issue has been solved under the 1973 Constitution and that he has abolished the concurrent list,that said some of the powers would be shared between the center and the states or provinces, and that he had given those to the provinces.
"Gilani is totally right in that the 1973 Constitution offered a solution, though Baluch nationalist may disagree," said Grare. "The problem is the 1973 Constitution has never been respected by the successive military or the civilian governments. The violations were more blatant under military rule."
But Grare acknowledged over the last 35 years there have been drastic changes in the constitution. "I know there are many Baluch who are not willing to be part of Pakistan, but there are others who say they want autonomy under the 1973 Constitution," Grare said, adding that what Baluch people really desire can be known in an atmosphere of genuine freedom of expression.
Baluch nationalist argue that if the 1973 Constitution could not save the life of its main author, President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, how could it guarantee anything significant to Baluchistan? Wahid Baloch pointed out that in spite of the so-called 1973 constitution an army operation is going on in Baluchistan that has left more than 100 people, including women and children killed, over the last two weeks.
The elder Bhutto's killer, General Zia ul-Haq on record referred to the 1973 Constitution as toilet paper.
Wahid Baloch said provincial autonomy will not work in the presence of a Punjabi-dominated national assembly where Balochistan has no say when it comes to policy making.
"The provincial autonomy slogan is a ruse to continue the illegal occupation of Baluchistan and exploit its resources at gun point. We want nothing short of sovereignty over our resources," he said.
According to the 1973 constitution, any person who aborts the constitution and stages a coup can be sent to the gallows, but Pakistan's last coup leader, now-President Pervez Musharraf, is still president of the country under a U.S.-brokered agreement.
Gilani was handpicked by Asif Ali Zardari, spouse of twice-premier Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated last year. Zardari, once a playboy from Karachi's club scene, is today the country's second richest man in Pakistan with a net worth of $1.8 billion dollars,
according to the Dubai-based Khaleej Times newspaper. He is known widely by his critics as "Mr 10 Percent;" Bhutto had put a gag order on Zardari during her lifetime.
Independent U.S. scholars believe the democratic dispensation in Pakistan should be given a chance.
Marvin Weinbaum, scholar in residence at the Middle East Institute, said more time needs to be given to Gilani to tackle the mindboggling issues confronting Pakistan.
"Give us more time this was his message," Weinbaum who heard Gilani speak at two events said.
Weinbaum said he had followed with interest the announcement, rescinded within hours, of putting the ISI under civilian control. "This was a recipe for greater tension between the military and the civilian sections of the government," he said.
Weinbaum felt Baluch calls for independence for the resource-rich Baluchistan was basically a demand for greater autonomy and more control over their resources.
But Wahid Baloch said the Western scholars do not realize practising true federalism was impossible within Pakistan or Iran, as the jihadists do not believe in borders and think they have the license to do whatever they want on foreign lands as the 9/11 attacks showed. "Life for one, is death for the other," Wahid Baloch said about Baluchistan's irreconcilable differences with Islamabad.
"That is exactly the reason why the overwhelming majority of Baluch people, 97 percent or more, want the ISAF to replace Pakistan army," Baloch said.