Image: Queen Elizabeth II attends a prize giving ceremony during a visit to Malta Racing Club at Marsa racecourse near Valletta, Malta, November 28, 2015. REUTERS/Matt Cardy/Pool
By Mubasher Bukhari
LAHORE, Pakistan (Reuters) – A Pakistani attorney said on Thursday he has filed a court petition seeking the return of the famed Koh-i-Noor diamond Britain forced India to hand over in colonial times.
Once the largest known diamond in the world, the 105-carat Koh-i-Noor is one of the Crown Jewels. It is set in a crown last worn by the late mother of Queen Elizabeth II during her coronation.
Attorney Jawaid Iqbal Jafree filed the court petition naming Queen Elizabeth II as a respondent on Wednesday in the eastern city of Lahore. The application asks that Britain hand back the diamond, now on display in the Tower of London.
India also has made regular requests for the jewel’s return, saying the diamond is an integral part of the country’s history and culture.
Britain’s then colonial governor-general of India arranged for the huge diamond to be presented to Queen Victoria in 1850, during British colonial rule.
Majority-Hindu India and majority-Muslim Pakistan became two different countries in 1947 when they became independent of Britain.
Jafree told Reuters that the Koh-i-Noor rightly belonged to Pakistan’s Punjab province and was “forcibly and under duress” taken by the British from the local ruler at the time.
“Now it should be returned to Pakistan,” he said.
“Her Majesty the Queen will rise in the highest public interest … with facilitating honest disposal and transferring the possession of the Koh-i-Noor diamond which was illegally taken,” Jafree said in his petition, which the court has not yet admitted for hearing.
“Koh-i-Noor was not legitimately acquired. Grabbing and snatching it was a private, illegal act which is justified by no law.”
If Kate Middleton, the wife of Prince William, who is second in line to the throne, eventually becomes queen consort, she will don the crown holding the diamond on official occasions.
In the last half century, Jafree has written over 786 letters to Queen Elizabeth and various Pakistani officials asking for the diamond’s return.
His latest high court petition notes that his letters have never been acknowledged, except once by Queen Elizabeth through her principal private secretary.
During a visit to India in 2010, British Prime Minister 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.
(Writing by Mehreen Zahra-Malik; Editing by Kay Johnson)
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