Perfect cover for political scoring!

Prothom Alo English Desk | Update:

If drug dealers are capable of using as much violence as suggested by the state, this should be considered “breakdown of law and order” that has occurred on the current government’s watch.

Saying this, Indian news site Scroll also criticised the ongoing antidrug drive in Bangladesh for killing people extrajudicially and blasted rights groups and national elite for their relative indifference about the cases of violations.

A Scroll opinion piece observed that the failure of major international human rights organisations - including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International - to take up the matter “reveals that even the world of humanitarians is not free of real politik”.

The likely reason for this apathy, the article pointed, is the fact that the victims of the anti-narcotics drive are from the lower and lower-middle classes.

“These people lack the resources and ability to lobby human rights organisations, as war criminals have done in the recent past,” read the article titled ‘Bangladesh’s so-called war on drugs is merely a cover for an extrajudicial killing spree’.

Recalling that India’s practice of encounter killings, replete with rhetoric, was imported into Bangladesh, the author, Ikhtisad Ahmed explained that that India’s silence on the matter, particularly given its enormous sway in the region, implies support.

The article mentioned that the people alleged to be involved in the drug trade, or drug addicts, have been arrested with little respect paid to due process and killed without trial.

More than 150 people have reportedly been confirmed dead, and over 12,000 arrested during the drive.

The Scroll article said Bangladeshi human rights activists allege that they have evidence that the rate of extrajudicial executions stands at a dozen a day, but the fear of reprisals keeps them from speaking up.

“Rather than being a populist move to remedy previous negligence and incompetence, an anti-drug drive is the perfect cover for settling personal and political scores, and for targeted attacks,” insisted the article.

“Though a state of emergency has not been declared, the constitution of Bangladesh is no longer in effect.”

The article further explained that although drug abuse is a decades-long problem in Bangladesh, it has been absent from the national and public discourse. There are at least seven million drug addicts, five million of them hooked on to methamphetamine or yaba, according to narcotics control department.

“The government’s assertions about not sparing drug lords ring hollow when noted kingpins - such as Awami League MP [member of parliament] Abdur Rahman Bodi, convicted on corruption charges related to illegal wealth in the past - are exonerated and allowed safe passage abroad,” the author wrote.

“The drug trade is impossible without the active participation of members of the ruling party.”

However, dwelling on silence or tacit support from the elites to the anti-drug drive, the author expressed his views that “the elites make statements tacitly accepting authoritarianism, which masks their complicity and culpability in the problem by virtue of their continued refusal to hold power to account.”

Referring to the precedent of Thailand’s failed war on drugs, the Scroll article said this signals a grim future for Bangladesh. “A regime becomes more authoritarian as its foundations weaken,” it added.

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