LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) accepted on Monday a petition calling for the British Queen to hand over the famous 105-carat Koh-e-Noor diamond to Pakistan.
British-trained lawyer Javed Iqbal Jaffery argued in his petition that the Koh-e-Noor actually belongs to Pakistan as the gem hailed from the territory that became Pakistan in the aftermath of the historic partition of the subcontinent in 1947.
The giant diamond was acquired by Britain in 1849 when the East India Company annexed the region of Punjab. Since then, India has laid claims to the diamond, urging the British government to return the gem which currently stays on display in the Tower of London.
Britain to India: Koh-i-Noor diamond is ours
The jewel, once the largest known diamond in the world, is set in a crown last worn by the late Queen Mother during her coronation and was displayed on top of her crown when her coffin lay in state after her death in 2002.
Jaffry has named the Queen and the British High Commission in Islamabad as respondents in his case which had previously been rejected by the LHC registrar in December on the grounds of paperwork, but has now been accepted by a judge of the same court.
Further, the lawsuit is aimed at forcing Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s 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 several government officials in the country before filing his lawsuit.
Koh-i-Noor: ‘LHC can’t hear plea against Queen’
"Koh-e-Noor was not legitimately acquired,” Jaffery wrote in his letters. “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 went on to argue that the 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.
“The Koh-e-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,” Jaferry upheld.
Give us back the Kohinoor diamond, India tells UK
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-e-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-e-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.
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.