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Richest man of his time

Richest man of his time
As efforts are being initiated to bring back the wealth of Indians stashed away in banks abroad, the demand of the heirs of the ruler of the erstwhile Hyderabad state to bring back ‘their’ money deposited in a London bank 64 years ago assumes added significance.

The 7th and the last Nizam of Hyderabad, Mir Osman Ali Khan, was reckoned as the world’s richest man of his time.   

After partition of the country and before the merger of then Hyderabad state with India, Nizam’s finance minister Moin Nawaz Jung had transferred 10,07,940 pounds sterling and nine shillings in the name of then Pakistan High Commissioner in London HI Rahimtoola in the National Westminster Bank, which is now called Royal Bank of Scotland.

India raised an objection to the transfer, saying the Nizam was not an independent ruler and prevailed upon the bank to freeze the account. Since then the matter is hanging fire.

The amount in Royal Bank of Scotland is now estimated to be 30 million pounds or Rs 3 billion, which includes the interest earned on the deposit.

Nizam’s heirs have asked both India and Pakistan to initiate a dialogue to resolve the issue at the meeting scheduled between the two countries in Islamabad in September 2012.

Nizam’s grandson and son of the late prince Hashim Jah Bahudur, Nawab Najaf Ali Khan has written to the Pakistan president Asif Ali Zardari to help in unlocking the money deposited in the Royal Bank of Scotland by agreeing to the proposal of an out-of-court settlement as suggested by India.

The issue cannot be resolved without Pakistan’s nod as the UK’s House of Lords had, earlier, ruled that the account can only be unfrozen with the agreement of all parties.

Najaf, alongwith other heirs of Nizam, met the new Pakistan High Commissioner to India, Salman Basheer in New Delhi, last week. They also intend to go to Islamabad next month to convince the Pakistani authorities.

The union cabinet took a decision in 2008 to pursue for an out-of-the court settlement after Nizam’s descendants met the Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh and the then finance minister Pranab Mukherjee. Mukherjee also went to Islamabad in 2008 and offered to end the dispute. But India-Pakistan dialogue process got derailed after the 26/11 terror attack in Mumbai.

Najaf, who is also the president of Nizam Family Welfare Association, is hopeful that Pakistan will agree to his proposal, particularly as a gesture of obligation since Nizam financed Pakistan’s first budget.

Since the amount deposited in the Royal Bank of Scotland has no will or trust deed, the Nizam’s heirs want the money to be distributed amongst themselves as per the Sharia law.

Najaf has plans to use a part of the money for setting up an educational institution for the new generation of the family members.

However the cultural advisor to the Nizam’s Trust, Muhammad Safiullah had estimated in 2008 that Nizam’s heirs may get 20 per cent of the money, while the Indian government will get a major share.

The last Nizam of Hyderabad had 18 daughters and 16 sons, out of which two sons and three daughters are still alive. Besides there are 104 grandchildren.

Nizam had refused to accede to India after the country got independence from British rule in 15 August 1947. He wanted Hyderabad to remain as an independent princely state or join Pakistan. However in September 1948, Hyderabad had to join the Indian union after an operation by Indian security forces.

India has rightly suggested an out-of-the court settlement to the issue. This is particularly relevant when the bonhomie between India and Pakistan has recently begun after the break in the dialogue process following 26/11 terror attack in Mumbai.

The money stashed away in the Royal Bank of Scotland needs to be brought back. It can be of use to the Indian government as well as Nizam’s heirs. How much would be the share of the three parties – India, Pakistan and Nizam’s heirs is a matter of negotiation.
Ashok B Sharma

Ashok B Sharma

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