Sikandar Hayat Khan (Punjabi politician)
Nawabzada Capt.(retd) Sardar Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan, KBE (also written Sikandar Hyat Khan or Sikander Hyat-Khan at times) (5 June 1892 in Multan–25/26 December 1942) was a British Indian politician and statesman from the Punjab.
He was the son of late Nawab Muhammad Hayat Khan, CSI, of Wah, who was a close associate of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, and a prominent scion of the Khattar Jat tribe of Attock, North Punjab. He was educated at school in Aligarh and later at Aligarh Muslim University, and for a short while was sent to England for higher education but was recalled home by his family circa 1915. During the First World War, he initially worked as a War Recruitment Officer in his native Attock district and later served as one of the very first Indian officers to receive the King's Commission, with the 2/67th Punjabis (later the 1/2nd Punjab Regiment). As a result of his distinguished services in the Great War and later, the Third Afghan War, he was awarded an MBE by the Government of British India. After 1920, Sir Sikandar turned his talents to business and by dint of his financial acumen and managerial skills, soon became a director or managing director of several companies, including the Wah Tea Estate, The Amritsar-Kasur Railway Company, The People's Bank of Northern India, The Sialkot-Narowal Railway, The ACC Wah Portland Cement Company, the Wah Stone and Lime Company, Messrs. Owen Roberts, the Punjab Sugar Corporation Ltd, Messrs. Walter Locke & Co, The Lahore Electricity Supply Co and many others. He also entered grassroots politics at this time, and remained an honorary magistrate and Chairman of the Attock District Board.
Later life and career
In 1921, Sir Sikandar was elected to the Punjab Legislative Council and his effective political role now began, as he became one of the main leaders of the Punjab Unionist Party(later known as the Unionist Muslim League), an all-Punjab political party formed to represent the interests of the landed gentry and landlords of Punjab which included Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus. To explain and justify his non-communal and united Punjabi stand, Sikandar Hayat Khan used to say, "I am Punjabi first then a Muslim"; and indeed, this was his essential conviction.
After an outstanding period of political enterprise between 1924 and 1934, he was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) in the 1933 New Year Honours list. he in due course took over leadership of the Unionist Party from Sir Fazli Husein. Khan led his party to victory in the 1937 elections, held under the Government of India Act 1935 and then governed the Punjab as premier in coalition with the Sikh Akali Dal and the Indian National Congress. This government carried out many reforms for the better of the Punjabi Zamindar or agrarian community.
Khan opposed the Quit India Movement of 1942, and supported the Allied powers during World War II. Khan believed in politically co-operating with the British for the independence of India and the unity of Punjab.
In 1937, soon after winning the general elections, confronted by internal pressure from many of his Muslim parliamentary colleagues and conscious of the need to maintain a balanced, equitable stance in a volatile and much-divided Punjabi political milieu, Khan decided to also negotiate with the Muslim elements under the leadership of Muhammad Ali Jinnah. As a result, Khan and Jinnah signed the Jinnah-Sikandar pact at Lucknow in October 1937, merging the Muslim elements of his powerful Unionist force with the All India Muslim League, as a move towards reconciling the various Muslim elements in the Punjab and elsewhere in India, towards a common, united front for safeguarding their community rights and interests,. He was also later one of the chief supporters and architects of the Lahore Resolution, March 1940, calling for an autonomous or semi-independent Muslim majority region within the larger Indian confederation—which demand later led to the demand for an independent Pakistan.
Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan's final days as Punjab's premier were extremely troublesome and marred by controversies and bitterness: since 1940 the Khaksars had been constantly giving trouble; he was having a rough time within the Muslim League with Malik Barkat Ali and others; and in the Legislative Assembly Bhai Parmanand and Master Tara Singh were questioning his increasingly inconsistent stance over Pakistan and Punjabi unity. Trying to yoke together an impossible 'political mosaic' took a drastic toll on his health, probably resulting in his early fatality. In a letter from Viceroy Linlithgow to Sir Leo Amery dated two days after Khan's death, the Viceroy offered a lengthy personal evaluation of Khan:
The real tragedy of the last couple days has been the sudden death of Sikander. He had his faults, as you and I well know. He was a rather difficult person to rely on in a really tight corner, and on more than one occasion he had caused me serious embarrassment. But he had a really remarkable record of achievement, and his services both to the Punjab and to India were very great indeed... I always felt... that he had an extremely difficult hand to play in the Punjab and that was the most probable explanation of his apparent weakness. He has with great skill for a number of years kept together a delicate political mosaic and I am by no means [untroubled] as I write at the thought of what may happen, for Sikander was well-known to be very non-communal in temper and outlook, and he had conciliated a far greater degree of general support in that most important Province than anyone whom I can think of as a possible successor is likely to manage to do.
Khan died on the night between 25/26 December 1942, of a sudden heart failure, at his home. He is buried at the footsteps of the Badshahi Masjid in Lahore, commemorated for his contributions to Islam by having restored and revitalised the grand mosque.
Among Sir Sikandar's children, the following attained noteworthy public status:
- Begum Mahmooda Salim Khan, Pakistan's first woman minister
- Shaukat Hayat Khan, senior Muslim League leader and political figure
- Tahira Mazhar Ali socialist leader and public activist
- Izzet Hayat Khan, businessman and former Pakistani ambassador to Tunisia
Among his grandchildren are Tariq Ali the British-Pakistani socialist writer and Yawar Hayat Khan, senior Pakistani TV producer-director; and among his great-grandchildren is the noted Pakistani poet and scholar Omer Tarin.
- Board of Control for Cricket in India—List of office bearers/presidents (1933–35)
- Not to be confused with the famous Delhi-Sikanderabad 'Qawwali' singers gharana, of which Ustad Muhammad Hyatt-Khan and his late Elder, Ustad Sikander Hyatt-Khan were the most well known exponents, see http://www.scribd.com/doc/1486791/Unsung-Qawwals
- See section on Sir Sikandar's background in Interview with Sir Muhammad Zafrulla, 1962, pub. 2004, http://www.aliaslam.org/library/books/Sir-Zafrulla-Khan-Interview.pdf
- Attock Gazetteer, Lahore, Govt of Punjab, 1910, p. 232.
- See Sir Sikandar Hyat Khan: The Soldier-Statesman of the Punjab, A Special Memorial Volume, Lahore: Government of the Punjab, 1943, pp. 10–12.
- Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan: The Soldier-Statesman of the Punjab, p. 31.
- See Field-Marshal Sir Archibald Percival Wavell, later Lord Wavell, in Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan: The Soldier-Statesman of the Punjab, pp. 33–34.
- During World War 2, when serving as the Premier of the Punjab, Sir Sikandar was given an honorary rank of Lieutenant-Colonel but this only temporary and in no way indicated actual military rank. See Wavell, above, p 34
- See 'The Handbook of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire', 1921 ed
- Dr. Iftikhar H. Malik, "Sir Sikandar Hayat: A Political Biography", Islamabad: NIHCR, 1985, p. 12.
- He was also a member of its first Central board of directors, when the RBI was established in April 1935 on the recommendations of the Hilton-Young Commission of 1925–26. See the History section of the Official Website of the RBI http://www.rbi.org.in
- Mittal, S. C. (1986). Haryana: A historical perspective. Atlantic Publishers & Distributors. p. 133. ISBN 81-7156-083-0.
- During which time he was also the first Indian native to have the unique distinction of being twice appointed as acting governor of the Punjab, in 1932 and then again in 1933–34.
- Dr. Iftikhar H. Malik, pp. 41–46 for details
- London Gazette, 2 January 1933.
- also see Prof. Lajpat Nair, Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan: Politics, Paper, Proceedings of the Institute for Current Affairs, Lahore, October 1943.
- Ahmad, Syed Nesar (1991). Origins of Muslim Consciousness in India: a world-system perspective. Greenwood Press. p. 179. ISBN 0-313-27331-6.
- According to the first-hand account of Sir Penderel Moon, who was then serving under Khan as a British ICS officer, in discussions in 1937 and 1938, Sir Sikandar explained to him the vital need for (a) maintaining the unity and integrity of the Punjab as a whole, and (b) at the same time striking a 'fine balance' in ensuring the rights of all Punjabi communities and communal factions; and he opined that rather than let things slide into anarchy and chaos, he would try his level best to do his 'utmost' to keep talking and making necessary concessions to all sides. While well-intentioned, this was probably attempting too much in circumstances that were inevitably headed towards divisiveness and beyond his control. See Moon, Divide and Quit, London: Chatto & Windus, 1962, pp. 19–20.
- Stanley Wolpert, Jinnah of Pakistan, Karachi: Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. 150–151. ISBN 0-19-577389-6
- Mansergh and Lumby (eds), Transfer of Power Documents, London, 1971, Vol. III, p. 431.
- Detailed review in the Civil and Military Gazette newspaper, 8 and 10 November 1942.
- Letter, Lord Linlithgow to Sir Leo Amery, 28 December 1942, British Library/IOR, Accession No. L/1/1/1427
- Letter, Lord Linlithgow to Sir Leo Amery, 28 December 1942.Mansergh and Lumby (eds), Transfer of Power Documents, London, 1971, Vol. III, p. 431.
- Dr Iftikhar H. Malik, Sir Sikandar Hayat: A Political Biography, p. 97. Also see Omer Tarin, 'Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan and the Restoration of the Badshahi Mosque, Lahore', PHS digest, 1995, Vol2, pp 21–29
- Under the circumstances, it is sad to see the present neglect of Sir Sikandar's grave in present-day Pakistan. See report in daily The Dawn, 15 December 2010, http://dawn.com/2010/12/15/sir-sikandar-hayat-s-grave-victim-of-neglect/ Retrieved 29 April 2012.
- Interview of poet Omer Tarin by Dr Ilyas Khan, November 2011 Retrieved October 27th 2015