On December 25, 1971 Hayat Mohammed Khan Sherpao a 34-year-old, left-wing intellectual from Charsadda was appointed Governor of the North West Frontier Province, which is now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK). In 1967, he had co-founded the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) with Chairman Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto(ZAB) and was given the position of founder Vice Chairman.

Under Ayub Khan, Pakistan had been an executive state controlled by the thana and patwarkhana, where the common man had no say. The nation was divided into the haves and the have-nots. The first free and fair elections in 1970 had mobilised the masses. When power was not transferred, Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rehman led the movement for the separation of the Eastern Wing. What was left came under the leadership of ZAB who had promised the rule of the ‘Awam’ (People). For the first time in the history of the country, the Police decided to go on strike in KPK and Punjab during that period.

Hayat Sherpao was an honest and upright politician who operated at the grassroot level. When the ‘Payti Bhai’ (Brothers in uniform) gave him a tough time, he refused to be blackmailed, and instead asked his party volunteers to take charge of the streets. The province remained peaceful and under control. In Punjab, Ghulam Mustafa Khar used the same approach. Finally, an ultimatum was served which said, “return within 24 hours or face termination”. The policemen had no option but to resume their duty before the deadline. As students, we then taunted them for months by saying ‘Wapas Ah Gai Ho’ (You have returned unconditionally?). Since then, the relationship between the force and the party has been strained.

ZAB and his team promised ‘Awami Hakumat” (Government of the Masses) and they delivered it. Change was visible everywhere. As students we could walk into the Governor’s house and be heard before we were tear gassed and lathi charged. Baboos were required to serve, not rule. For identification, a National Identity Card scheme was introduced. There were major reforms in the Passport Office. The citizen’s right to travel was recognised and facilitated. People of all shades used this facility to earn higher wages by working abroad. Today the ex-patriats are the largest foreign exchange earners for the country (close to $15B annually).

The popularity of young and charismatic Hayat Sherpao was on the rise. ZAB decided to clip his wings and offered him a position in the Federal Government on April 20, 1972. By that time, he had earned the title of Sher-e-Sarhad (Lion of the Frontier). He kept his links with his home province and participated actively in its development. Finally, on Feb 08, 1975 at the age of 38 years, he was assassinated during a function at the University of Peshawar. The Vice Chancellor at that time was Dr. Ali Muhammad Khan (Ex-Principal, Aitchison College Lahore) who was the brother of Wali Khan, the leader of the opposition, so the blame fell on them.

In his brief political innings, Hayat Sherpao left a legacy that remains un-matched. His younger brother Major (R) Aftab Sherpao took on his mantle. The 41st death anniversary of the ‘Sher-e-Sarhad’ was recently organised. Several buildings and bridges carry his name (Hayatabad, Hayat Shaheed Hospital, Sherpao bridge etc.)

In the seventies, ZAB promised “Awami Pakistan” while in the nineties Kaptaan introduced the concept of ‘Naya Pakistan’. Awam ruled in the ‘Awami Pakistan’, the leaders lived and then died with the ‘Awam’, leaving no empires or offshore companies. They are remembered for their deeds of giving, not taking. How is Naya KPK being ruled?

Since 2013, KPK is under the rule of ‘Naya Pakistan’. Like ‘Awami Pakistan’, the changes should be visible on the ground. During the Ayub regime, there was a joke that rulers rule through ‘Sabaz Bagh’ (Promises of Greenery) while the dictator ruled through ‘Kalabagh’, a tyrant from Mianwali, who happened to be from the home constituency of Imran Khan Niazi. On his recent trip to KPK, the Prime Minister posed the question, “Where is Naya Pakistan?”

Kaptaan decided to build ‘Naya KPK’ through Pervaiz Khattak, a senior politician from Nowshera. Albert Einstein, one of the most trusted and brilliant brains of the 20th century said, ‘We cannot solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”, he also remarked; “you can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created”. Another famous saying; “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning”.

We have not lost hope for tomorrow, which is why we continue to question, but have we learnt from yesterday? An inexperienced 34-year-old Comrade from Charsadda emerged on the political horizon of KPK in the seventies and took it by storm. He was rightly called ‘Sher-i-Sarhad’, because he lived and died for his ideology and beliefs. Spent forces, fired cartridges ‘Chala Hua Kartoos’ cannot deliver change or build Kaptaan’s ‘Naya Pakistan’. It is a great tragedy for the nation that we forget our heroes and run after the zeros. Will KPK see another ‘Sher’ (Lion) or be ruled by the ‘Zer’ (underdogs) forever? Kaptaan has to decide whether he wants more of the same and follow ‘Rah-e-farar’ (escapism) or bring real change by adopting ‘Rah-e-Hayat’ (real life) as practiced by comrade Hayat Mohammed Khan Sherpao, a proud son of the soil.