Saturday, 12 April 2008
Hyderabad Nizam: The Fate of Forgotten Money
April 12, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, April 11: Hyderabad is all set to witness yet another battle royale among the Nizam's family members following the Union Cabinet's decision to go in for an out-of-court settlement on the Nizam's funds now lying with a bank in the UK.
As much as 30 million Pounds has been lying in a freezed account with the National Westminster Bank in London since September, 1948 after a dispute between India and Pakistan. Soon after Independence, then Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan transferred one
million Pound Sterling to the London-based bank for onward transfer to Pakistan government.
Indian government objected to the transfer arguing that the Nizam was not an independent ruler and he had no right to send money to London. India prevailed upon the bank authorities to freeze the account. Since then both India and Pakistan have been battling out in court claiming the money.
After 60 years of protracted legal battle, the Indian government favoured an out-of-court settlement with Pakistan and the legal heirs of the Nizam. According to Muhammad Safiullah, cultural advisor to the Nizam's Trust, India will be the biggest beneficiary followed by Pakistan. "Since there's no Nizam government now, the Nizam's
trust and his legal heirs will also get a part of the money," he says.
Mir Osman Ali Khan's grandsons Shahmat Jah, Mufakham Jah and Mukarram Jah, granddaughter Fatima Fouzia and other family members are now laying claim on the money. Each of them claims that they are the rightful heir to get part of the funds.
"We have the right over the money. We are going to play an important role. The government should give the share to me and my mother. We will claim the funds," says Shahmat Jah.
According to sources Mufakham Jah and Mukarram Jah are also planning to explore legal means to claim funds, but are waiting for the response from Pakistan government.
"The Indian government has made its intentions clear. Pakistan is also a party to the dispute. Unless Pakistan government agrees to the proposal, the dispute will not get resolved. Once the matters become clear, we will lay claim. The money is ours and we alone are the legal heirs," one of the grandsons of the Nizam told this
correspondent requesting anonymity.
Mufakham Jah is currently in Hyderabad and Mukarram Jah is now in London along with his lawyer. They are said to be waiting for the decision of the Pakistan government. The Nizam's family may get at least 15 per cent of the total funds, as per an estimate.
If the grandsons and other family members approach court, it will be the second major legal battle in the Nizam's family after the jewellery case.
Safiullah, who had obtained three research doctorates on Nizam's family, said the nascent Pakistani government in 1948 had no money to pay even the salaries of its employees. Nizam happened to be the richest man on the Earth in those days and the Pakistani government approached him through Habib Ibrahim Rahimtoola, then Pakistan
High Commissioner in London. The Nizam through his finance minister transferred the money to London and from there he wanted it to be sent to Pakistan.
An alert Indian government then sent a telegram to the bank and stopped the transfer process. The Pakistani government went to court and since then India and Pakistan have been locked in a legal battle.
The matter went up to the House of Lords. It held that the legal title to the money vested in the Pakistan government, which was not asserting a beneficiary title to the fund.
Union Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal said, "we decided to restart the negotiation process with Pakistan to know how much the private beneficiary should get."
Begum Scheherazade Javeri, former principal advisor to Prince Mukarram Jah, argues that the money solely belonged to the Prince.
"It's neither India's or Pakistan's money. It was not given to Pakistan or anyone else. The money was invested in the Westminster Trust. Even the House of Lords judgement states that the beneficiary of the Westminster Trust, which was formed by the late Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan, and invested in the Westminster Bank is the
present Nizam HEH Prince Mukarram Jah," she said.
Javeri added that it was for the Prince Mukarram Jah to decide whether to share the money with his brother.
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