Khan Bahadur Capt. Sardar Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan, KBE (also written 'Sikandar Hyat Khan' at times) (5 June 1892 in Multan – 25/26 December 1942) was a renowned 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 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.
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 renowned 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, Sikander 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 1924-1934, 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 cooperating 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 Sikander-Jinnah 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.
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 revitalized the grand mosque.
Among Sir Sikandar's children were late Begum Mahmooda Salim Khan and Shaukat Hayat Khan. Pakistani-born British activist, leftist writer Tariq Ali is his daughter's son. Another notable grandson is the Pakistani television producer Yawar Hayat Khan. Among his great-grandchildren are the Pakistani poet and scholar Omer Tarin and journalist Kamila Hayat.
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