Those who sacrifice their lives in defending their motherland are true heroes of the nation. These heroes are always revered by nation and paid luminous tributes with an unremitting gratitude to commemorate their contributions. One of such hero is Major Yousaf Khan Khalil, the first Pashtun military officer who embraced Shahadat.
Major Yousaf Khan Khalil Shaheed was born at village Tehkal Bala, Peshawar in 1915. He belonged to a wealthy family. His father, Wazir Muhammad Khan, served in the British Army and retired as risaldar. Later on, Wazir Muhammad Khan started his own business. Yousaf Khan’s mother was from Charpariza village and belonged to a landlord family of Daudzai tribe.
Yousaf Khan completed his basic education from Islamia collegiate school and college. He was an active athlete and remained the captain of Islamia college football team. During his graduation in 1935-1936, he welcomed Quaid-e-Azam at Islamia college Peshawar as a student leader. He also remained the president of Khyber Union in 1936 to 1937.
After graduation, he initially focused on farming, however, soon he applied for Army commission and was subsequently selected as a commissioned officer. He completed his training in Mhow, a military academy set up by British to train officers for army as the second world war was approaching Europe. After commissioning as lieutenant, he was appointed in signal regiment of British Indian army corps of signals and posted to Burma where he served during world War Second. In early August 1947, major Yousaf was posted as a second in command of signal unit in Poona cantt, South India. Few days before partition, he was ordered to report to the fourth Indian division signal regiment, which was later part of Punjab Boundary Force performing security duties in Punjab. The same regiment eventually became part of Pakistan Army.
He was given a task to transport equipment from Poona to the forth Indian division. On 20th august, he alongwith equipment left for the destination via train. The situation was very vulnerable as Sikh mobs were attacking trains and killing Muslims on their way to newly created Pakistan. on 24th August 1947, when the train reached at a small station called “Mansa” in Batinda district, Patiala state, train was attacked by aggressive Sikh mob. The Sikhs started killing Muslim men and children while raping the women. Although the doors of his compartment were closed but the harrowing screams and agonizing cries awakened Major Yousaf. As he saw the barbarity of mob and savage massacre of victims, he picked up his revolver and rushed towards the trains door. Mitchell his British associate tried to stop Major Yousaf and ask him not to expose himself to the wild and rampant mob. But Major Yousaf couldn’t held back and pushed Mitchell aside and open fire on the mob to rescue the innocent people. While rescuing the victims, all of a sudden, someone from the mob hit Major Yousaf with a spear knocking him down. The mob then swooped on him like a pack of cannibals and started hitting Major Yousaf with their spears and swords. He embraced shahadat at the spot while fighting selflessly for the innocents. Major Yousaf died gloriously for a noble cause and got the honor of Pakistan’s first martyr.
Major Yousaf had a wife and three sons. His wife passed away after 58 years of his shahadat. She was a housewife and spend her whole life raising her children. When Major Yousaf youngest son, Ex vice chancellor of University of Peshawar, Prof Dr. Azmat Hayat khan was asked whether any recognition or award was given to Maj Yousaf and why his story is not known to this generation. In his opinion the main reason for lack of any award was that Pakistan was a new country at that time and was in a due process of establishing and organizing itself. He further stated that they have heard from family elders that major Yousaf was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and was also assigned as ADC (aide-de-camp) to Quaid- e -Azam however, he couldn’t make it to Pakistan.
We have a very special place in our hearts for all our heroes who give up their lives to make Pakistan what it is today. Some of them found their way into history and are even remembered today with great pride, respect, and admiration. However, there are numerous unsung heroes in our history who have offered their lives for the country and its people. While recognition is never the aim of any such hero, nations keep their heroes alive to motivate young generations. It is to remind them of the sacrifices, their elders have to offer to earn this country. Major Yousaf khan deserve to be in the limelight for his outstanding contribution and offering extreme sacrifice for his motherland. There is also a need to include all such heroes in our curriculum books so that next generation can acknowledge and know about these real life heroes.
Special Thanks to Prof Dr. Azmat Hayat Khan
(Ex-Vice Chancellor University of Peshawar)