National Geographic : 1955 Mar
East Pakistan Drives Back the Jungle 399 A Land of Elephant Roundups, Bengal Tigers, and a Bamboo Economy Takes Big Strides Toward Becoming a Modern Nation BY JEAN AND FRANC SHOR National Geographic Magazine Staff With Illustrations from Photographs by the Authors T HE huge swaying elephant on which we rode moved quietly into the edge of the teak forest to let a honking jeep pass along the narrow trail. The Bengali schoolmaster who rode beside me smiled. "This is symbolic of East Pakistan," he said. "The elephant gives way to the jeep. Our bamboo economy is being modernized. In a single generation we are making the leap from primitive jungle to a modern nation." My companion may have been a bit opti mistic. East Pakistan covers 54,500 square miles of jungles and rivers and alluvial plains. It is enormously fertile. But its population has a low literacy rate, and communications are bad. Time and effort are required to correct these things. Yet the progress East Pakistan has made in the eight years since it achieved freedom speaks well for its future, as does the enthusiasm of its people. Two Pakistans 1,000 Miles Apart East Pakistan stands alone geographically, but it is not a separate country. It is a part of Pakistan, a Commonwealth of Nations member created in 1947 out of predominantly Moslem areas of India. Its 42,000,000 people are a majority of Pakistan's population, yet they are crowded into an area one-sixth the size of West Pakistan. And it is separated from West Pakistan by 1,000 miles of un friendly land (map, page 402).* The Governor of East Pakistan at the time of our visit, tall, Oxford-educated Malik Firoz Khan Noon, stood beside a wall map in Gov ernment House at Dacca and told us of the area's strategic importance. "If the Chinese Communists should move south from Tibet or west through China proper," he said, "we stand directly in the path. Burma lies on our southeastern border, and India surrounds us to the west, north, and east. Our only communication with West Pakistan is by air or sea. "We are isolated-but we are not afraid. The morale of our people is high. They feel themselves a part of Pakistan. The bond of Islam holds us together. We will remain one nation-and an independent one!" East Pakistan is vital to Pakistan's national solvency. Its monsoon climate and rich allu vial soil produce more than 70 percent of the world's jute, the plant fiber used in making burlap and twine. Jute exports provide nearly half of Pakistan's foreign exchange. But there is much more to East Pakistan than political problems and jute fields. Primi tive hill tribes, many of them still a mystery to anthropologists, dwell deep in the teak for ests. Wild elephants, Bengal tigers, panthers, and cloudy leopards stalk the tangled jungles. Ruins of the Arakanese Empire dot its south east corner. And deep in the jungles of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Jean and I witnessed the thrilling spectacle of a wild elephant roundup. We were the guests of Governor and Lady Noon. The roundup, or keddah, is held an nually in the Hill Tracts. The Government had invited the United States Ambassador to witness this one, and we were included. A comfortable overnight train ride took us to Chittagong, principal port of East Pakistan, nine miles upriver from the Bay of Bengal. From there we drove northeast to Rangamati. In Search of Wild Elephants We crossed one river on a trembling wooden bridge, another on a flat wooden ferry poled across the muddy current by small brown skinned men wearing only sarong-type gar ments knotted around their waists. As we moved north and east, the hills grew higher and the forest denser. The countryside was a network of narrow, mud-banked canals. Native boats, their high sterns painted in brilliant colors, crowded the waterways. At Rangamati we joined Lady Noon and * See, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE: "Pakistan, New Nation in an Old Land," by Jean and Franc Shor, November, 1952, and "'Around the World in Eighty Days,'" by Newman Bumstead, December, 1951.