Late Justice Sher Bahdur Khan, Senior Puisne Judge, High Court Peshawar (1920-70)

By Muhammad Humayun, Registrar Peshawar High Court

Justice Sher Bahdur Khan of Peshawar High Court - Kitna Haseen Shehar hai Veeran Teray Baghair

Justice Sher Bahdur Khan, Senior Puisne Judge, High Court Peshawar (1920-1970)Late Mr. Justice Sher Bahadur Khan was Senior Pusine Judge of the Peshawar High Court and was one of its very eminent and brilliant Judges. He served the Lahore Seat of the west Pakistan High Court from April 1967 to March 1968 when he took over as Senior Judge of the Peshawar bench of the High Court on the retirement of Mr. Faizullah Khan. Later, on the establishment of the Peshawar High Court he was sworn as one of the Permanent Judges of the Court.

Mr. Justice Sher Bahadur Khan belonged to a notable family of Wazirs of Jani Khel, situated at a distance of about 18 miles from Bannu, and was the illustrious son of his great father late K. B. Minawar Shah. His father predeceased him only a few months before his death and was a leading Malik of his great tribe. They are six brothers, he being the second. The eldest is Sakhi Jan Khan who was a Deputy Minister in the Cabinet of the late Dr. Khan Sahib. The third brother is Mosam Khan holding the rank of major in the Army. He has two sons Muhammad Iftikhar Khan and Muhammad Zuber Khan who are college students.

He joined service as Civil Judge in the year of 1944 after having topped the list in the competitive examination. He also served as Deputy Commissioner of Mardan, in the Rehabilitation Department, also as Private Secretary to the late Doctor Khan Sahib, Chief Minister of the ill-fated Province of West Pakistan and also as Solicitor to the West Pakistan Government. He distinguished himself in all the fields and won for himself the distinction of an able administrator. It was said of him that he would not pass idle orders and would implement them and make them effective by actually getting executed the work he promised, on the schedule. He was a practical man as often he himself would say.

By dint of sheer hard work and his talents, he soon made his mark and rose to the bench in April 1967. He would have succeeded the present Chief Justice on the latter’s retirement in 1972 and held this high office for about 11 years. Unfortunately, the fate willed it otherwise. But howsoever great the office of the Chief Justice may be, it has no comparison to the life of a ‘Momin’ in the Universe hereafter.

The late Justice Sher Bahadur Khan was elegant, smart in dress and habits, ready-witted, courageous and a person of high personality. He left indelible impression on everybody who came into contact with him. He was a very pious man and deeply attached to Islam. He had a large company of religious men and associated himself with religious institutions and also contributed his mite to them. Perhaps few knew that he had donated Rs. 14,000 to Jama-i-Ashrafia Lahore. The village Imam used to get Rs. 80 P.M. from him regularly and this payment used to be made by him since he was Sessions Judge, the monthly contribution being then about Rs. 50 P.M.

He was a fearless Judge and firmly wedded to the principle of even-handed justice. He had a deep anxiety to do complete justice between man and man and because of his great understanding of men and human affairs and because of his great insight and great intellectual capabilities, he would get at the core of the case in no time, and in his own style wrote clear, unambiguous, forth-right and self-speaking judgments, and even the naughty of the knottiest problems, both on the civil and criminal side, were explained and presented in the most simple manner to show as if it was the most simple problem. His administrative acumen was no less distinguished and Himalayan problems according to the administration point of view, would be unraveled by him at the spur of the moment. I remember cases involving a huge number of files, but before the same would be opened the main question before him would have been solved, as the summary of the case laid before him had undergone his study.

He was a terror for the dishonest among-st the officers and the staff and had a soft corner for the honest among-st them, and the same principle guided him in other walks of life, because his love and his animosity were purely in the way of God in the true meaning of :

Justice Sher Bahdur Khan of Peshawar High Court - Alhubbo Lillah wol Bughzo Lillah

Allama Iqbal had also put it in the following words:

 Justice Sher Bahdur Khan of Peshawar High Court - Her Lehza hai Momin ki Naee Aan Naee Shaan

The other couplet of the Allama also, is, in no way inapplicable to him, which reads thus:

Justice Sher Bahdur Khan of Peshawar High Court - Qahari o Ghaffari o Quddusi o Jabroot

He estimated and graded the officers and the staff mostly on their merits simplicity and not on seniority alone because he himself would say that for every thing he does, he shall have to answer before God, as if he truly imbibed the following injunction of the Holy Qur’an:

Justice Sher Bahdur Khan of Peshawar High Court - Verse from Surah Al-Ahqaf

And to all
Are (assigned) degrees
According to the deeds
Which they (have done),
And in order that (God)
May recompense their deeds,
And no injustice be done
To them.

He had a very pleasant personality and very broad vision and outlook and understood all the legal, judicial, executive and local problems with such ability that few could envy him. He dominated the circle in which he would be sitting, and with sweet and pleasant manners, and conversation, one would like to listen to him with rapt attention, and never get tired of his company.

His sad and untimely death was mourned throughout the country, both in the East and West Pakistan, and condolences continue to pour in from both wings of the country to the bereaved family His death was condoled by the Bench and bar. Full Court References were held at Peshawar as well as at Lahore and the Provincial Civil Service Associations and the Members of the Karachi High Court Bar, Lahore High Court Bar, Peshawar High Court Bar and also at the District level including Resolutions by the Hazara Bar Association and Rawalpindi Bar Association. In all these References and resolutions rich tributes were paid to the late Justice Sher Bahadur Khan and it was felt that the void left by his death would be difficult to be filled up. As pointed out in the Reference of the Full Court of the Lahore High Court, Justice Sher Bahadur Khan had completed or rather exceeded the 40 prayers in the Masjid Nabwi in Madina Sharif and there was, therefore, little left for him in this earthly life. Before he could resume his duty on the 14th December 1970, he was taken ill while, still in Mecca Muazzama on the 11th, brought to Karachi Jinnah Central Hospital on the 13th and died on the 20th, after he was operated upon for brain hemorrhage in the Jinnah Central Hospital, Karachi. He had boarded the plane for the holy land on the 13th November 1970 and was seen off by his friends, admirers, colleagues and the Chief Justice. I remember that while talking to the Chief Justice his Lordship had most humbly and devoutedly said, “when a man gets an appointment with a Governor, before meeting him, he makes all sorts of preparation, what to say of going and laying oneself at the feet of the Holy Prophet. Oh, it is a great honour. It is a great test”. He was thus recalled to the eternal life hereinafter, in the true meaning of the following injunction of the Holy Qur’an:

Justice Sher Bahdur Khan of Peshawar High Court - Verse from Surah Al-Fajar

Oh,! Body getting peace and tranquility,
Return happy to thy Creator, as thou has been selected.
And enter my Paradise.

His Lordship would take long steps in the evening walks and few could keep pace with him. The long steps were, it would now appear, as if aimed at completing the life journey quicker and sooner than the ordinary average life. He died at the age of 50. It is an irony of fate that great men are not gifted with longevity of life and many of them have died at this age including the late Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar. He was of the same age at his death.

Like a candle, he used to shed the light and benefited the society around him. Due to extraordinary hard work, study and examination of cases with labour and devotion of duty, he got dissolved like the candle and perished. One would see him working on the Bench with running temperature, and unless wholly incapable of attending to work by illness, he would attend to his duty and devote himself to work.

In the short span of his career, as Judge of the High Court, he wrote some very leading and illuminating judgments, and if spared, he would have in the remainder of his career, added to the judicial treasure. But as Zouq has put it:

Justice Sher Bahdur Khan of Peshawar High Court - Zouq iss Bahr-e-Fana mein Kishti-e-Umar Rawan

Without embarrassing the reader with any pretense of my own piety, may I venture to make mention of an incident, that after the burial of his Lordship while reading the Holy Qur’an I came across the above verse already quoted in Surah Alfajar-30, and believing it to be applicable to the demise of his Lordship on the circumstances culminating in the death and his pious deeds, I tried to commit the verse to my memory in order to console the brothers and sons of his Lordship, but it would get out of my memory. While sitting in the lawns of my house, I asked my son to bring the Holy Qur’an as I wanted to write the above verse on a piece of paper in order to commit it to my memory On the table in front of me was the Pakistan Times of the 21st December and failing to find a plain paper in front of me for writing the verse over it I tore off a portion of the Pakistan Times at portion marked ‘A’ and wrote the above verse over it on the open space in the margin at the top. While doing so, I had not seen the other side of the cut portion of the newspaper. After writing, however, when I turned it I found on the other side of the cut portion of the newspaper, the news about the sad demise of his Lordship at portion marked ‘B’. Both the portions front and back herewith placed below have been in the photostat copies, however, shown together. Death at Rawalpindi reported in the newspaper is due to a mistake of the Staff Correspondent:

Justice Sher Bahdur Khan of Peshawar High Court - Urdu Translation of Verse of Surah Al-Fajar

Justice Sher Bahdur Khan of Peshawar High Court - Letters to the Editor, Pakistan Times, 21 December 1970

His Lordship had died at Karachi. Only the dead body was brought to Rawalpindi from Karachi on way to Jani Khel, Bannu.

May the above Ayat Karima be a certificate of Mughfarat of his lordship, ‘Ameen, Summa Ameen’.

His Lordship’s grave is as impressive and awe-inspiring as his Lordship’s personality in that the tomb is made up of small pieces of beautiful stones of the Ilaqa and is to remain in this simple style without being made pucca. It was thus willed by his Lordship.

Those who were the friends, admirers, relations, servants, colleagues and the staff who worked with him, or any one else who came in contact with him, will bear testimony to the fact that on account of his Lordship’s actions, expression, writing, conversation and restlessness, he was a “Mercury” personified. Now that he has passed away being a pious and devout Muslim, the tidings in the Surah Alfajar extensively commented upon with the address of  Justice Sher Bahdur Khan of Peshawar High Court - Oh, Body getting peace and tranquility

(Oh, Body getting peace and tranquility) in relation to a mind likened by me to “Mercury” may be a source of comfort to the bereaved family, and pray that his Lordship’s soul may rest in eternal peace and that God Almighty may grant to the bereaved family the strength to bear the shock with patience and fortitude.


  1. Brig Asad Hakeem (GHR-2) says:

    Late Justice Sher Bahadur Khan was a brilliant, witty and a jolly friend of my father. I heard so much about him from my father who used to share the friendship stories of his friends with us. My father followed him next in seniority. It was very unfortunate that he left for heavenly abode at such a young age. He was instrumental in getting the land allotted to Darul Ashrafia Lahore besides the donation mentioned in the article. To date his services are remembered by the current leadership of the great religious School. May Allah SWT rest the departed soul in eternal peace and shower His incessant blessings on his widow and the two sons.

  2. Maj Murtaza Malik (ABD-3), USA says:

    May Allah SWT bless him and grant him Jannah, Ameen.

  3. Maj Javed Rizvi (GHR-2) says:

    I have dearth of words and lack the vocabulary to write any comments about a personality like him.
    If at all I want to write about him, then the word SUPERB will, to some extent, suit.
    May Allah reward him in JANNAH for his deeds. Aameen.

  4. Maj Mohammad Safdar (GHR-3) 2nd SSC says:

    A great and inspiring personality who is a shining beacon for everyone, particularly his justice department. Zubair Wazir, you have all the pride in his legacy. May Allah SWT bless him in eternal peace.

  5. Lt Col Rashid Zia Cheema (ABD-1) says:

    Dear Zubair,
    Yuru father departed this World at a very young age of 50. This article written 48 years back by the Registrar of Peshawar High Court, is an apt tribute to him. May his soul rest in eternal peace at the choicest station in Jannat-ul-Firdous, Aameen.

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