India-Pakistan clash over Nizam of Hyderabad funds in UK
London, Jun 25: A decades-old legal dispute between India and Pakistan over around 35 million pounds belonging to the Nizam of Hyderabad at the time of Partition in 1947 and deposited in a London bank account has reached an important stage in the UK High Court.
The Nizam’s descendants, Prince Mukarram Jah – the titular eighth Nizam of Hyderabad – and his younger brother Muffakham Jah, have joined hands with the Indian government in the legal battle against the Pakistan government over the funds lying with NatWest Bank plc in London.
The dispute revolves around 1,007,940 pounds and nine shillings that were transferred in 1948 from the then Nizam of Hyderabad to the high commissioner in Britain of the newly-formed Pakistan.
That amount has since grown into millions as the Nizam’s ancestors, supported by India, claim it belongs to them and Pakistan counter-claims that it is rightfully theirs.
“His Exalted Highness Nizam VIII and his younger brother have waited decades to receive what their grandfather gifted them. Pakistan has blocked access for 70 years and we hope the recent trial will mean a final resolution at last,” said Paul Hewitt, partner at Withers law firm, which is representing the Nizam’s ancestors, now in their 80s, in the Royal Courts of Justice in London.
The two-week trial, presided over by Justice Marcus Smith, has been presented with arguments from both sides in the case listed as – The High Commissioner for Pakistan in the United Kingdom versus seven others, including the Nizam’s ancestors, the Union of India and President of India.
The judgment in the case is expected in an estimated six-weeks’ time.
The judge has been asked to determine the “central question” of who exactly is the “beneficial” owner of the funds belonging to the late Nizam Osman Ali Khan.
The Nizam, who faced the quandary of joining Pakistan or staying with India at the time of the funds transfer back in 1948, had later reportedly sought the return of the funds.
NatWest Bank has since held on to the funds deposited into the London bank account of then Pakistan High Commissioner Habib Ibrahim Rahimtoola in safekeeping until its rightful legal owner is established.
The lawyers arguing for the Nizam’s descendants, based in Turkey, have disputed Pakistan’s claim over the funds as alleged assistance to Hyderabad in its attempts at the time of “self-defence against Indian aggression”, by arranging the supply and transportation of arms.
The case has been through several stages of legal wrangles in the UK over the years, with some resolution expected in the coming months.