From Myanmar to Pakistan: a rustic love story

By Khurram Shahzad ,AFP

DHUDIAL, Pakistan — Now aged in her 90s, Ayesha Bibi doesn’t remember her real name, who her father was or much about her hometown in Myanmar. What she does remember is that in the 1940s, as Allied forces fought one of the bloodiest battles of the Second World War, against Japanese forces, she fell in love at first sight with a soldier from what is now Pakistan. Her parents had been buried alive after their house collapsed in bombardments by Japanese forces. Distraught, she left the site and came upon a nearby barracks �X where she met Sepoy Muzaffar Khan of the British Indian Army, which provided some 2.5 million soldiers for the Allies. Eventually they married and settled in Dhudial, a village in the heart of Pakistan’s breadbasket province of Punjab. Khan died a few weeks ago, ending a love story that began in the chaos of war. ��When my parents died during bombardment and nobody was left in my family, I simply walked into the soldiers’ camp and asked Muzzaffar to take me along. Because I trusted him,�� Bibi, a small sparrow of a woman with papery skin and cloudy blue eyes, said in fluent Punjabi. ��I liked Muzaffar. We initially started communicating in sign language because I didn’t know his language.�� More than 100,000 women, mostly from across Europe but also Asia-Pacific, moved to the U.S. as ��GI brides�� after the war under a new law for military wives.

But marriages within Asia between colonial forces and other subjects of the empire were far less common. Retired Gen. Abdul Majeed Malik, who joined the British Indian Army in 1939 and later served as a government minister, said such cases were exceptionally unusual. ��I never heard about any brides coming here with soldiers who went for WWII,�� he told AFP. ��If any WWII bride from Burma exists here that is an individual case and I must say the most rare one.�� The couple’s love story spanned more than 70 years �X a period which saw both Myanmar, then called Burma, win its independence from the UK in 1948 and the birth of Pakistan in 1947.

But in Dhudial time seems almost to have stood still.