Noor Muhammad, his wife and their two-year-old son left behind their paddy fields and bamboo houses in Arakan, now known as Rakhine, in Burma to set off on the toughest journey of their lives.
Back then, the Burmese army was arresting men from the Rohingya community. These men were then killed, tortured or turned into forced labourers. Noor Muhammad was captured and forced to carry officers’ heavy knapsacks on his back, surviving without food for two days. When he was set free, he decided to leave for a safe abode and Pakistan seemed like a good option.
Around 200 people set out on the journey in 1979, a year after the Burmese military launched the King Dragon Operation in the Arakan province, which is home to the Rohingya Muslims.
It took the group three months to get to the Wagah border. “By the time we got to Pakistan, blood was oozing from our feet and there were blisters on our soles.” Only six managed to reach the country, others stayed behind in Bangladesh or India while many died along the way.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 3rd, 2012.