Pakistani court agrees to hear claim for diamond from Crown Jewels, once the world’s largest known diamond
A new ruling in Lahore has set the stage for a three-way claim between India, the UK and Pakistan for the famed Koh-i-Noor diamond from the Crown Jewels.
A judge on Monday accepted a petition from a British-trained lawyer calling for the Queen to hand the 105-carat gem to Pakistan.
The diamond is set in a crown last worn by the late Queen Mother during the coronation of her husband George VI
India has long laid claim to the diamond, which was acquired by Britain in 1849 when the East India Company annexed the region of Punjab.
But in the new suit, Javed Iqbal Jaffry argued that the Koh-i-Noor actually belongs to Pakistan as he says that the gem hailed from territory that became Pakistan in 1947.
The jewel, once the largest known diamond in the world, is now on display at the Tower of London.
It is set in a crown last worn by the late Queen Mother during her coronation and that was displayed on top of her crown when her coffin lay in state after her death in 2002.
The registrar for the Lahore High Court had in December rejected the petition on paperwork grounds. But a judge has now accepted the case, meaning that it will proceed to a further hearing.
Mr Jaffry has named the Queen and the British High Commission in Islamabad as respondents in his case. But his lawsuit is aimed at forcing the Pakistan government to press Britain for the diamond’s return.
The mission has been a lifetime cause for the London-trained lawyer who has written 786 letters to the Queen and to Pakistani officials before filing his lawsuit.
“Koh-i-Noor was not legitimately acquired,” he wrote in his filing. “Grabbing and snatching it was a private, illegal act which is justified by no law or ethics. A wrong is a wrong. It does not become righteous or right by passage of time or even acquiescence.”
He argued that Britain “forcibly and under duress” stole the diamond from Daleep Singh, the grandson of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh and spirited it to Britain.
In 1850, Britain’s then colonial governor-general of India arranged for the huge diamond to be presented to Queen Victoria. Punjab was split between India and Pakistan in the partition of the Raj in 1947.
“Koh-i-Noor was not legitimately acquired. Grabbing and snatching it was a private, illegal act which is justified by no law or ethics” Javed Iqbal Jaffry
Mr Jaffry told The Telegraph: “The Koh-i-Noor was snatched illegally from the 14-year-old ruler of Punjab, from Lahore, by the East India British Company. It was gifted to Queen Victoria, but she never used it in her crown.
“The East India Company ruled Punjab, but the question is how can a company be the ruler of any country so how can you legislate for its actions.”
He added: “I have written more than 786 letters and epistolary requests regarding the return of the diamond. In the writ, I want to establish the Koh-i-Noor’s status as a cultural object of Pakistan. I also request the court to order government of Pakistan to raise the issue with the British government.”
Indians have long demanded the return of Koh-i-Noor which was owned by several Mughal emperors and Maharajas before being seized by the British.
Keith Vaz, the British-Indian Labour MP, made the latest such call before the visit to London in November of Narendra Modi, the Indian prime minister.
“What tends to happen with these questions is that if you say yes to one, then you would suddenly find the British Museum empty” David Cameron
Britain has consistently rejected Indian claims on the gem and there is no suggestion it would look on the bid from Pakistan more favourably.
During a visit to India in 2010, David Cameron said in an interview on Indian television that the diamond would stay in London.
“What tends to happen with these questions is that if you say yes to one, then you would suddenly find the British Museum empty,” he said.