Drug smuggling on the rise: Why godfathers remain out of reach

EditorialProthom Alo illustration

The government has adopted a zero tolerance policy against drugs. Despite this, drug smuggling has surged alarmingly. Records show the recovery of yaba pills by the law enforcement in Teknaf and Ukhiya border of Cox’s Bazar has almost doubled in four years. Drugs like crystal meth known as ice has also made its way into the country. Amid this it construed that the self-proclaimed drug traders have been awarded light punishment for their gruesome crimes.

According to Prothom Alo, 17.7 million yaba pills were recovered in Cox’s Bazar in 2019 in the operation of BGB, RAB, Police, Coast Guard and Narcotics Control department. In the 10th month of this year, the number of yaba recovered there is 32.8 million. While 24 kg of crystal meth was recovered in 2021 while 192 kg was recovered this year.

In 2018, the government launched a special drive against drugs. In that drive, small-scale drug dealers were caught but the big fish and the godfathers remained out of reach. Allegations of extrajudicial killings and widespread human rights violations came to fore during the operation.

In February 2019, some 101 drug dealers listed by the ministry of home affairs surrendered at Teknaf High School grounds. It was hoped that this would reduce drug smuggling along the Teknaf-Ukhiya border.

But the opposite happened. Recently, after the verdict of the trial of those drug dealers was announced, it garnered many questions in public mind about their surrender.

In the Narcotics Control Act of 2018, where the maximum penalty for drug dealing is death, they have been sentenced to one and a half years imprisonment and a fine of Tk 20,000 each. Of the convicted accused 83 are absconding. Among the absconding accused are 12 close relatives of Abdur Rahman Badi, former member of Parliament of Cox’s Bazar-4 Constituency, including 4 brothers.

While pronouncing the verdict, the court in its order said, many (drug traders) surrendered to save themselves due to the stern position of the law enforcement, continuous raids, and incidents of crossfire.

The political and civic leaders in Cox’s Bazar also said the same. They think the drug dealers surrendered and went to jail to save their lives and property.

That’s why the drug smuggling never stopped even for a day after their surrender. Their associates controlled the smuggling racket when they were in jail. Upon release, many of the godfathers have been smuggling drugs directly while many are doing the business through Rohingyas.

It is being construed that the self-proclaimed drug traders were awarded less stringent punishment due to discrepancies in the police charge-sheet and the deposition at court. Such weakness and negligence of the investigating agencies is one of main reasons of drugs dealers’ getting away with their crimes.

Carriers and field-level sellers are caught during the raids of law enforcers. Actually, it is not possible to stop drug smuggling by conducting raids against them. Many get involved with the work if anyone is caught.

It is not possible to stop drug smuggling by keeping the entry points unguarded and setting up all possible systems to save the big traders. The people known as ‘godfathers’ of drug business are socially and politically influential.

That’s why they remain out of touch. Rather than any eyewash, the zero tolerance policy has to be truly implemented against the ‘godfathers’ of drug trading. Surveillance along the Teknaf-Ukhiya border has to be strengthened further.