Isn’t the Koh-i-Noor diamond better off with the British?

Published: February 26, 2016
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The history of the Koh-i-Noor has been ravaged with conquests, wars and plunder. PHOTO: REUTERS

Just imagine, hypothetically speaking, that the British in their infinite wisdom and benevolence decided to return the Koh-i-Noor back to Pakistan, would we be able to maintain its splendour? Or keep it protected from theft? Or even protected from the corrupt hands of the numerous politicians who would be eyeing this as a ripe opportunity to rob Pakistan even further?

In the hands of the British, at least we know the Koh-i-Noor is preserved and protected from any ill-intentioned parties. If Pakistan is not benefiting from the magnificence of the Koh-i-Noor then neither are the British. They have, after all, put it on a very secure display at the Tower of London as a stinging reminder that its resplendent glory will remain out of reach for anyone who vies for it.

The history of the Koh-i-Noor has been ravaged with conquests, wars and plunder. It is said to have originated from a mine located in India and stayed with the Kakatiya dynasty for centuries until it was taken into possession by Babur, who later established the Mughal Empire in India. As it passed through the Mughal leaders, its gargantuan size was reduced from a whopping 700 carats to 186.

In the 1700s, there was a further invasion by Nader Shah, also known as the Shah of Persia, who is also said to be responsible for the name Koh-i-Noor or mountain of light. After his empire collapsed, his General, Ahmad Shah Durrani, took the diamond and later his descendant wore it as a bracelet. When his kingdom was overtaken by Mahmud Shah, Durrani’s descendant was able to flee with the diamond to Lahore. Once in Lahore and expecting a return for his hospitality, Maharaja Ranjit Singh took possession of the diamond in the 1800s.

After the British conquest of Lahore in 1849, following a prolonged siege with the Maharaja’s troops, the diamond was handed over to the invading army through the legal instrument of the Treaty of Lahore. This document ceded all of the Maharaja’s assets (including the Koh-i-Noor) to the East India Company and to add insult to injury, the Maharaja’s 13-year-old son was ‘requested’ to present the diamond to Queen Victoria as a clear indication that they had removed all ownership rights over it.

Once it was in England, the diamond was further cut from 186 carats down to 106 in a special project commissioned by Prince Albert and it was polished to make it shine brilliantly. Afterwards, it was duly lodged into the Queen Mother’s crown where it has remained as a stark reminder of Britain’s shady colonial past.

This is definitely a very simplified version of the history behind the Koh-i-Noor but the truth is that it has always been treated as the spoils of war, ready to be taken by any invading army. Now it will take an army of great force to dislodge it from the clutches of the British, which in itself is a delusion of profound grandeur.

The Koh-i-Noor has been a thorny contention for the British as the governments of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and even Iran quarrel over its origins and ownership. A few days ago, news emerged that a lawyer in Pakistan filed a case in Lahore High Court requesting the official return back to Pakistan of the Koh-i-Noor and even providing historical evidence of its origins. The Indian government has also pressed the British on asking for its return but David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, has made it very clear that no such return will ever be made possible. Instead of focusing on a glittering diamond that is under heavy lockdown, we should focus on making the best of what is already in our possession; our country Pakistan.

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Faiza Iqbal

Faiza Iqbal

A law graduate from King's College, London Nottingham Law School. Having worked at Mandviwalla & Zafar as an Associate, she now writes freelance articles and is trying to qualify as a barrister in Canada.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • M

    Could not agree more. The Golconda mines were the only known source of diamonds at the time and have produced several famous and celebrated stones.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Take it in stride. The author is expounding a theory. Casework.
    Since she is an attorney. Chill out. No harm done. Nothing serious.
    The British, also took the very famous sculptures from the Parthenon,
    in Greece. Known as the Elgin Marbles. They are in a private collection.
    Not even in a museum. The Germans took the Iconic bust of Queen
    Nefertiti, wife of Pharaoh Akhnaten. Mother in law of King Tut!! Now in
    a Berlin museum. Akhnaten, the first Pharaoh, to declare there is One God Only. The all powerful, benevolent…Sun!! The first instance of monotheism!!
    He put the priests, temples caretakers of other various gods and goddesses
    out of business. The priests hated him. As soon as he died, they reverted back.
    The Greeks and the Egyptians have turned blue in the face, asking for these invaluable national treasures to be returned. No go. They will not be returned.Recommend

  • Patwari

    This is going on a skewered tangent. Should the Ottoman
    Empire, [Turks] be paying restitutions to Egypt, Syria, Trans Jordan, Saudia, Bulgaria, Italy, Austria for all the treasures that
    were brought to back Istanbul? They have the sword of Imam Ali [SA] son in law of the Prophet [PBUH] Topkapi Museum.
    Certainly, that sword belongs to Saudis, by your reasoning. Want to know what Napoleon took back from Egypt? Or Lebanon?Recommend

  • Zexter

    Well I don’t quite think that the Britishers are ever going to return the diamond. However it doesn’t make a difference. If the Britishers ever return the diamond, I am pretty sure that next time the diamond will be found in Britain, instead of being on the queen’s crown, it will be the crown jewel in one of the houses of our politicianRecommend

  • M

    Yes, the Ottoman empire is guilty of colonial oppression and pillage and Turkey should pay up.
    Stop being an apologist for colonialism.Recommend