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Where does Bangladesh's war on drugs go from here?

  • Published at 01:47 am May 25th, 2018
  • Last updated at 01:53 am May 25th, 2018
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51 people have been killed in the recent anti-drug drives as of on Thursday Mehedi Hasan

A total 51 people have already been killed in the recent anti-drug operations as of on Thursday, and more than a thousand have been arrested across the country

Law enforcement agencies of Bangladesh have all but declared war on drug traffickers across the country from the beginning of this month.

A total 51 people have already been killed in the recent anti-drug operations as of yesterday, and more than a thousand have been arrested across the country.

Concerns have been voiced in some quarters that most of the arrests are of low level drug peddlers, while the kingpins are still at large.

However, speaking to the Dhaka Tribune yesterday, Department of Narcotics Control (DNC) Director General Mohammad Jamal Uddin Ahmed said law enforcers were conducting drives to arrest high profile drug dealers, although limitations in existing laws posed a barrier.

“Until one is caught with drugs in their possession, they cannot be arrested. However, we are conducting drives to catch the big fish. The police and Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) have started special operations. A list of high level drug dealers, using information from all law enforcement agencies, is in the process of being made,” the DNC DG said.  

In addition to the DNC, RAB, police, Border Guard of Bangladesh, the Coast Guard, and two intelligence organisations of the country, have prepared individual lists of drug dealers. A list of drug dealers from various regions of Bangladesh, including over a thousand names, has been sent to the Home Ministry, sources said.

An anti-drug master plan

RAB alone has conducted 611 individual anti-drug operations from May 4-24 this year, arresting 709 suspected drug dealers, while 19 died in gunfights with the law enforcement agency. A total of Tk34 crore was also recovered in the raids.

On condition of anonymity, a RAB official said a “master plan” had been made to tackle yaba entering the country through Cox’s Bazar.

Under the plan, all routes through which yaba is smuggled in the Teknaf and Ukhia upazilas of the district would be destroyed, he said.

 The RAB official added that special plans to tackle the drug trade were also being prepared for other border districts such as Cumilla, Bandarban, Jashore, Feni, and Chapainawabganj.

Addressing the media at various programs, RAB Director General (DG) Benazir Ahmed has said on a number of occasions that drug dealers would be arrested and no one would be spared regardless of how powerful they may be.

He added that it was necessary to capture low level drug dealers to glean information on the upper tier of drug syndicates.

The kingpins in Dhaka

According to the list of drug dealers prepared by the DNC, there are more than 100 drug dealers in the capital.

Among them, Ishtiaq of Geneva camp in Mohammadpur is one of the biggest dealers of yaba. Having previously been a truck driver, he has reportedly earned over Tk100 crore from the narcotics trade, according to law enforcement sources.

Even though Ishtiaq has been identified, he is yet to be captured. An associate of his, Nazim, alias Pachish, was recently arrested but jumped bail after 11 days in police custody. He also is now on the run.   

Rampura Thana Jubo League leader, Tanim, and Merul Badda Shechasebok League leader, Jainal, are other known “godfathers” of narcotics. Selim, Paruli, and Parvin from Tejgoan and Mohammadpur, Kashem from Nayabazar, Bappa of East Jurain New WASA Road, Shamsunnahar, alias Shamsunni, of Khilgaon Central Nandipara School Road, Palash, alias Kailla Palash, of West Rampura, Md Arif from Badda Swamarkul, and Jainal Mamun and Khorshed from Merul Badda are also considered major Yara dealers.

The Dhaka Metropolitan Police also identified 100 top drug dealers in the capital in their own list, each of whom were accused in at least four cases. The list was cut down to 45 names after scrutiny.

One of the most prolific dealers on the list was Baba Kashem, 40, who operates his narcotics business from the Korail slum. He is wanted in 16 cases with Banani police station. Raju Ahmed, 36, deals drugs in the Nurerchala area of Bhatara and is wanted in 12 cases filed with Bhatara Police Station. 

The DMP list also includes the names of women in addition to that of men. Najma Begum, 45, the wife of Rabiul Islam, alias Rubel, runs the drug trade in Khilkhet and is wanted in 23 separate cases; 22 with Khilkhet police station, and one with Kadamtoli police station. Meanwhile, Saleha Begum, 51, runs the narcotics business in Taltola and is wanted in 18 cases filed with Rupnagar police station.

While drives are underway to arrest these kingpins, they are yet to be captured, police said.

DMP Commissioner Asaduzzaman Mia said that combined anti-drug operations began from the 1st day of Ramadan. 

“So far, many drug dealers have been arrested in the operations and a huge amount of narcotics have been recovered,” he added.

He further said that the list of top drug traders has been finalized and all the suspects would be brought to trial.

At an anniversary program of RAB on May 3, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina called for the elite force to combat the drug trade with the same fervour as they did anti-militancy operations. l