By: Aamir Akhtar
Sahibzada Abdul Qayyum Khan (12th Dec.1863–4th Dec.1937), hailing from Topi, Swabi District, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He was a distinguished educationist and politician. He became the first Chief Minister of the N.W.F Province on 1st April 1937. He is also known for establishing the Islamia College,Peshawar’ on the mould of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan’s policy of educating Muslims.
Sahibzada Abdul Qayyum started his career as a government servant but he eventually turned into a great educationist and respected politician.
Sahibzada Abdul Qayyum was born into a well-known religious family of Topi. His paternal family traces its lineage back to the Lodhi dynasty. His maternal family traces their lineage back to Husain ibn Ali. His father was Sahibzada Abdur Rauf.Abdur Rauf married his maternal cousin Zainab, daughter of Syed Amir Kotha Mulla. His mother died when he was 3 years old and his father was assassinated by rivals when he was 10 years old. After the death of his father,he and his sister were brought to Kotha by their maternal uncle, Syed Ahmed Bacha. He studied at the local madrassah where his uncle was a teacher. He was a bright student and caught the attention of a visiting Christian missionary Reverend Hughes. Rev. Hughes used to come to Kotha for religious discussion and propagation and had befriended Abdul Qayyums’uncle. Sensing that his nephew had more potential, Syed Ahmed Bacha was eventually convinced by Hughes to send him to Peshawar for modern education.
Abdul Qayyum was admitted to the Municipal Board Middle School, Peshawar City from where he passed his Vernacular school exam in 1880. He subsequently gained admission to Edwards Mission High School, where he passed his English middle school examination in 1883.He took the examination for Naib-Tehsildar in September 1886 and passed on his first attempt. Due to the non-availability of a Naib Tehsildar post, he applied for training in Settlement Work. He eventually joined the Commissioner’s Office and was employed as a Translator and Reader. In 1887, Sahibzada Abdul Qayyum was appointed Naib Tehsildar. During this time he was part of the Black Mountain expedition of 1888.This was a punitive expedition against certain Hazara clans for unsettled offences, including the murder of several British officers.
During the expedition, Abdul Qayyum had the task of sending daily reports to the various government agencies. His work was highly commended and he was awarded a silver medal, ‘Hazara 88’. He was sent to Sialkot in 1890 for settlement training. He subsequently held several administrative portfolios, i.e. Tehsildar, Chief Political Agent of Hazara, Revenue Assistant and Treasury Officer, Extra Assistant Commissioner, Superintendent of the Commissioner’s Vernacular Office, Assistant Political Agent Khyber, Assistant Political Agent of Chitral, and then of Khyber Agency and then promoted to Assistant Political Agent of Khyber, during the period 1891 to 1919.
In the year 1893 during the rule of Amir Abdur Rahman Khan of Afghanistan, a Royal Commission for demarcating the Indo-Afghan Boundary, the Durand line between Afghanistan and the British Indian Empire, was set up and the two parties camped at Parachinar.From the British Indian side the camp was attended by Sir Henry Mortimer Durand and Sahibzada Abdul Qayyum, then Assistant Political Agent Khyber Afghanistan was represented by Sahibzada Abdul Latif and the Governor Sardar Shireendil Khan representing the King Amir Abdur Rahman Khan. In 1924 he was nominated as a non-official member of the Indian Legislative Assembly and remained a member until 1932.In November 1928 he was appointed as a member of a committee to examine the educational conditions in NWFP, Delhi and Ajmer-Merwara. The committee submitted a report in 1930, with an in-depth analysis, general recommendations and specific stress on female education, sanitation and necessary changes in curricula. He represented NWFP at the Round Table Conferences India 1931- 33. The 1st NWFP Legislative Council was established in 1932 and Abdul Qayyum was appointed the first and sole Minister of Transferred Departments. As a consequence of the Government of India Act, 1935, the NWFP status was upgraded to a governors’ province, hence requiring a separate Legislative Assembly.Following the first elections in NWFP in 1937,no single political party was able to gain a majority. Sahibzada Abdul Qayyum became the first Chief Minister of the Khyber- Pakhtunkhwa on 1 April 1937. However, this government could not last more than 6 months. Owing to Indian National Congress conspiracies, a vote of no-confidence was passed against him in September 1937. He was replaced.