Hayat Mohammad Khan Sherpao (Urdu: حيات محمد خان شيرپاؤ; February 1, 1937 – February 8, 1975), simply known as Hayat Sherpao, was a notable left-wing intellectual and socialist, serving as the fifteenth Governor of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province of Pakistan, as well as vice-chairman of Pakistan Peoples Party. Sherpao held important executive offices, including served as the Interior minister and hold numbers provincial ministries of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province.
Co-founding the Pakistan People's Party with Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in 1967, Sherpao took the responsibility to governed the Kyber Province in a difficult times when the country had lost the East-Pakistan as a result of 1971 Winter war with rival India, and when the Pashtun nationalism was at its peak point, calling for the independence from Pakistan. As governor, he oversaw the re-constitution of provisional assembly, stabilizing the law and order situation in tribal belt, and overseeing the success of covert operations in Afghanistan Soviet Socialist Republic in 1975. His governorship and Sherpao himself tackled and faced intense communist opposition led by Asfandyiar Vali, and was assassinated in a targeted bomb explosion on the campus of Peshawar University in 1975.
Hayat Sherpao was born in 1943 to Khan Bahadar Ghulam Haider Khan Sherpao who was a leader in the Pakistan Movement. A Muhammadzai by tribe, he was born in the influential Sherpao family of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. He was the fifth son of Khan Bahadar Ghulam Haider Khan Sherpao, a Pakhtun aristocrat who was a key player in the Pakistan movement. Hayat Khan was also the older brother of veteran Pakistani politician Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao.
Hayat Khan's impressive family tree and cross-marriages in other influential families gave him an edge over others in influence and politics. Hayat Khan's family (known as the Khans of Sherpao) has for long been a prominent and influential family in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. His father Khan Bahadur Ghulam Haider Khan Sherpao was a key figure in the Pakistan freedom movement and an influential political leader. From his mothers side, Hayat descends from the line of the Khans of Prang.
Hayat is renowned to having belonged to a family of Khan's and Feudal Lords but lived in the hearts of the poor masses that saw him as their saviour.
Hayat Sherpao graduated from Islamia College, Peshawar, where he also worked for student rights. He joined the front ranks in Fatima Jinnah’s electoral campaign, when she challenged the Genera Ayub Khan's dictatorship.
Lion of the Frontier
Sherpao was a close ally of the former President and Prime Minister of Pakistan Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and a Co-founder of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). On December 25, 1971 Sherpao became the 15th Governor of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa shortly after Bhutto had become President of Pakistan. At the age of 34, Sherpao is youngest person to have held the office of a Governor of a Province in the history of Pakistan. He continued to hold this office till April 30, 1972. Sherpao also remained a Federal Minister in Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's cabinet and a Senior Minister in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa cabinet.
Hayat Khan Sherpao's rise in politics was of almost meteoric proportions. The surge in his popularity in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa as well as the rest of Pakistan is said to have cast many jealous eyes upon him and earned him a number of enemies, quite often in the form of seasoned and already established politicians from other mainstream political parties. This popularity and political success, however, also led to him being dubbed the "Lion of the Frontier" or "Sher-i-Sarhad" by the Pakistan Peoples Party, and more specifically by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.
He was assassinated on February 8, 1975, in a bomb explosion on the campus of University of Peshawar Asfandyar Wali Khan, the leader of National Awami Party (Wali) was named as the primary accused by the Bhutto government. His death led the government to target the National Awami Party of Khan Abdul Wali Khan, which banned the party and arrested its leaders on the charge of his murder, a charge they were eventually acquitted off.
Hayat Sherpao's assassination was a considered a national disaster with many still mourning his loss today. To pay tribute to the slain PPP leader many places, roads, and institutions were named after him. The famous town of Hayatabad and Hayat Shaheed Hospital in Peshawar District, Sherpao Bridge in Lahore and the many Sherpao colonies in different parts of Pakistan including Rawalpindi and Karachi are some examples of this.
On the death anniversaries of Hayat Mohammad Khan Sherpao, politicians and other citizens renew their pledge for the establishment of an egalitarian society. His death in a bomb explosion at Peshawar University is unforgettable in Pakistan’s troubled political history and is an historical event for workers of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) as it exposes the violent tendencies in our political culture.
Hayat Sherpao mantel is now carried by his younger brother Aftab Sherpao, who learned politics and diplomacy form his elder brother. Carrying forward the mission, he now formed his party named Qaumi Watan Party (QWP), which is also a leading provincial force. The Sherpao faction has raised a voice for the rights of the Pukhtoon and the province, avoiding negative politics. It goes to Sherpao’s credit that he has arranged public gatherings every year to commemorate his brother’s death anniversary.