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

Published: February 26, 2016

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.

  • Parvez

    Absolutely…..and this diamond issue is about as dead as the Dodo bird of Mauritius.Recommend

  • someone

    No. it does not belong to them. It should be with the rightful owners.Recommend

  • Salman

    It will safest at the hands of Honorable Ex President Asif Zardari.Recommend

  • Vectra

    It is not the question of safe or no safe but question of leagacy of where it belongs to its rightful owner from where it was originally mined and it was Golconda mine in Andhra Pradesh, India with Kakatiya dynasty as its owner.Therefore India is its rightful owner that Britain have to riturn Koh-i-Noor voluntarily in some time in future to India.Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    An obtuse and shockingly ignorant write-up; indeed, a magnificent testimony to the efficiency of cross-country colonial campaigning.

    So it would be ‘benevolent’ of a raider to return a national treasure that it looted? Is that the word we’re non-sarcastically going with: “benevolent”?

    We can argue all day long on who gets to keep Koh-i-Noor: India, Pakistan or, Bangladesh, or Afghanistan. What we know for absolute certain, is that London has *no* legitimate claim over it. It does *not* belong to England, any more than Karachi or Delhi belong to them.

    “Hey, you know what, we Pakistanis and Indians are too simple-minded to settle the Kashmir dispute. So we’ll just hand this territory over to the Queen of England for safe-keeping. Cheers!”Recommend

  • Humza

    Why just the Koh I Noor? Why not give everything back to the British since our people, politicians and generals can’t look after things in our country and are so corrupt. By the same logic all the Muslim countries and former colonies including India should be given back to the British to manage and look after too since there is so much corruption in all former colonial countries, especially the Arab states. Look at how Muslim refugees behave in Europe with smuggling, crying persecution and then abusing local laws to live on state welfare. Yes Koh i Noor and all artifacts in all 3 rd world countries should be handed back to their colonial rulers whether British, French, Belgium or others.Recommend

  • M

    “preserved and protected from any ill-intentioned parties”. I think you fail to see that the British are an ill-intentioned party. They should start returning all the colonial artifacts and jewels.
    Very ignorant article by author. Educate yourself.Recommend

  • 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

  • Salim Alvi

    By same logic Jinah, the London resident should have stayed there so the killings, rape and uprooting of tens of millions of 1947 and 1971 could be avoided. By same logic Imran shuld remain with with his Brishit Jewish wife of Lonodn.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

  • stevenson

    Might is right but it’s still shocking to hear the obsequious nature of Third World peoples towards the people who ruled them. Talk about an inferiority problem. Rather than talk about injustice, it’s easy for the people like the writer to just say we are not worthy of looking after own things.Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    I feel like I’m supposed to take solace in the fact that the British looted more than just the Indian subcontinent. I don’t.

    The fact that the British Museum is brimming with treasures and important artifacts taken from around the world, simply illustrates how deep the problem goes.

    I agree that we cannot expect the British to return these items and pay reparations to post-colonial countries anytime soon. But it’s preposterous to suggest that our property is simply “better off” in the hands of the British, because we are not worthy of reclaiming it.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