He was born in 1967 in Beveren-Waas. He was a member of the town council of Beveren-Waas from 1989 to 1997 and a member of the province council of East-Flanders (1991–1994). He earned a degree in Law at the University of Antwerp. He is openly gay.
He served as Belgium's Commissioner General for refugees and stateless people (2001–2003). In 2003 he became state secretary in the government of the Brussels-Capital Region with the competences of Mobility, the Civil Service, Fire Department, Urgent Medical Assistance and chairman of the Flemish Community Commission with the competences of Culture, Sport, the Civil Service and Media.
After the regional elections of 2004 Pascal Smet became a minister. From 2004 to 2009 he was minister in the government of the Brussels-Capital Region. He dealt with mobility and public works in the Brussels capital region. He was also competent for culture, sport and youth for the Flemish community in Brussels. After the 2009 regional elections, the SP.a was ousted from the Brussels government and on 13 July 2009 Smet became then a member of the Peeters II Government as Flemish Minister for Education, Youth, Equal Opportunities and Brussels Affairs.
In the 2014 regional elections he ran for the Brussels Parliament, after which he will likely become Minister in the Brussels Government again.