Mukarram Jah was no stranger to court disputes over property and money, as Mir Osman Ali Khan had left behind 104 grandkids. One such fight, however, included a £35 million payment, the governments of India and Pakistan, and was finally settled by a UK court. Here’s the backstory.
On Tuesday (January 17), the mortal remains of Mukarram Jah, the nominal eighth Nizam of Hyderabad, will be housed at Hyderabad’s Chowmahalla palace for the people to pay their respects.
Nawab Mir Barket Ali Khan Walashan Mukarram Jah Bahadur died in Istanbul at the age of 89.
Mukarram Jah, the successor to his grandfather Mir Osman Ali Khan, the richest man on the earth, witnessed his family’s authority crumble when Hyderabad integrated with India, and then much of the seventh Nizam’s great fortune vanish under the weight of infighting, debts, legal issues, and terrible management.
Mukarram Jah was no stranger to legal disputes over property and inheritance, as Osman Ali Khan had left behind 104 grandkids. One such fight, however, included a £35 million payment, the governments of India and Pakistan, and was finally settled by a UK court.
This is the narrative of the court struggle known as the Hyderabad money dispute, as well as the eighth Nizam himself.
The case of the Hyderabad funds
Moin Nawaz Jung, the Nizam’s finance minister, sent £1,007,490 and nine shillings to the account of Pakistan’s High Commissioner, Habib Ibrahim Rahimtoola, on September 20, 1948, a day after Hyderabad’s army surrendered to India, without first gaining the Nizam’s approval. This money was kept in the National Westminster Bank in London.
India wanted the money back in 1954, but the action was suspended because Pakistan claimed sovereign immunity. The bank then announced that it would retain the funds until the Nizam, the Indian government, and the Pakistani government could all agree on who owned them.
Pakistan breached its own sovereign immunity in 2013 by going back to court for the money, which had now been increased 35 times with interest. The legal battle lasted six years, with Pakistan claiming that the money was given to Pakistan’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, so that he could buy weaponry to protect against Indian soldiers. According to Pakistan, these weapons were acquired and transported to Hyderabad in 35 flights from Karachi by a British pilot, Frederick Sidney Cotton, and hence the money was payment for services rendered.
The government of India and the Nizam’s grandsons, Mukarram Jah and his brother Mufakkam Jah, resolved to pursue the lawsuit together in 2018. The UK High Court found in favour of India and the Nizam’s heirs a year later, in 2019, awarding them the total £35 million.
According to experts, the lawsuit was about much more than money for India and Pakistan. There had been several efforts to settle the issue out of court throughout the course of the 70-year process, but the relationships between the two countries made that difficult.
In his 2017 book ‘The People Next Door’, T C A Raghavan, who was posted in the High Commission at Islamabad twice, first as Deputy High Commissioner and later as High Commissioner, wrote about the case, “For Pakistan, the issue is of Hyderabad’s forced accession following a military intervention when its ruling Muslim prince wanted independence and a closer relationship with Pakistan. As a result, the fund represents the symbolic link… The challenge for India is one of principle: “What possible claim can Pakistan have on the funds of the erstwhile Hyderabad state?”
The lawsuit may have meant many things to Mukarram Jah, but the financial side could not have been inconsequential, since his estate lost money and his costs became sinkholes, from his sheep farm in Australia to his several divorces and alimony payments.
A small overview of Mukarram Jah
|Full name||Mir Barkat Ali Khan Siddiqi Mukarram Jah Asaf Jah VIII|
|Birth places||Nice, France|
|Number of Children||6|
|Net Worth||$US1 billion|
|Age||89 Years old |
Born 1993,6th October
Died 2023, 15th January
Mukarram Jah’s Quick Summary
Mukarram Jah was born in France on October 6, 1933, to Prince Azam Jah and Princess Durru Shehvar, the Ottoman Empire’s imperial princess. He attended Doon School in Dehradun and then Harrow and Peterhouse in Cambridge. In addition, he attended the London School of Economics and the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.
Following the death of Mir Osman Ali Khan in February 1967, he was coronated as Asaf Jah the Eighth on April 6, 1967.
Mukarram was chosen as successor over his father Azam Jah, although he showed little interest in managing and conserving his huge land. According to historian William Dalrymple’s 2007 article in The Guardian, upon his accession, Mukarram inherited a “ridiculously inflated” army of 14,718 staff and dependants, including people whose only job was to dust chandeliers or grind the Nizam’s walnuts; a staggering collection of gems and jewellery; and heirlooms that included priceless paintings and furniture.
In addition, he inherited a fierce financial squabble, with far too many conflicting claims and court lawsuits on the numerous assets. Mukarram escaped to a sheep farm in Australia, leaving the estate and his troubles in the hands of deputies and devoted his time to his main hobby, repairing with ancient autos.
However, things quickly deteriorated as Mukarram was duped by individuals he trusted and his jewellery and treasures were stolen. To repay his debts, the Nizam sold his sheep property and relocated to Turkey.
Things improved significantly in the 2000s when the Nizam’s first wife, Princess Esra, arrived to Hyderabad and restored order to the pandemonium. Chowmahalla and Falaknuma, two of the Nizam’s palaces, were later renovated, with the latter being operated by the Taj Group.
The Nizam’s family feuds and sufferings, however, did not end there. Even after the UK High Court’s decision in the Hyderabad funds case, some of Mukarram’s cousins claimed that because Mukarram was only the titular Nizam, he could not be considered the heir to the sum deposited by the seventh and actual Nizam, and that the money should be divided among all the descendants.