‘Minor penalty’ will increase drug trade

EditorialProthom Alo illustration

The incident of awarding one and a half years of imprisonment to 101 self-proclaimed yaba traders will be marked as an example of minor penalty for major offence.

This penalty of those involved with drug trade will in fact encourage the drug trade. If they are actual yaba traders, their punishment was supposed to be way bigger.

And if they are not guilty, they are not supposed to serve neither major nor minor penalties. Cox’s Bazar district and session judge Mohammad Ismail passed the verdict on Wednesday.

Only 18 of the 101 accused were present at the court then, the rest of them are fugitives.

It’s learned from Prothom Alo’s report that 102 yaba traders and patrons surrendered on Teknaf Pilot School ground at 10:00am on 16 February, 2019 in the presence of home minister and inspector general of police. They handed over 30 local firearms, 70 bullets and 350,000 yaba tablets.

The list of people surrendering included 12 close relatives of Abdur Rahman alias Badi, parliament member from Cox’s Bazar, including four of his brothers. Badi’s brothers and close relatives are listed as yaba traders and patrons by the home ministry.

This minor punishment for major offence has given rise to various questions. Criminals are punished to prevent or control crimes. But those who have earned billions through yaba trade, destroyed millions of lives and families, their punishment is just one and a half years of jail and a fine of Tk 20,000!

Meanwhile, expressing his frustration with the verdict, Fazlul Quader Chowdhury, president of Cox's Bazar Civil Society Forum said that the yaba traders should have been given maximum punishment.

Yaba traders have been just encouraged with the minor punishment. According to the Narcotics Control Act of 2018 however the maximum penalty for drug trading is death penalty.

All of them have been acquitted from the case that was filed against them under the firearms arms act. If the accused had surrendered with weapons as per police narrative, how can they be acquitted under the firearms act? What’s the secret behind this?

Many people have been victims of alleged gunfight in various parts of the country including Cox's Bazar on suspicion of being involved in yaba trade.

That process almost stopped after retired army officer Sinha Md Rashed Khan was killed in an alleged gunfight. We, under no circumstances support extrajudicial killings.

But this does not mean that yaba traders will be spared through the loopholes of law. Trials are done or punishments are given in a case based on the characteristics or evidences of the case.

Does that mean, evidence to get a suitable punishment were not presented? There are allegations that the surrender ceremony on 16 February, 2019 was staged.

Police had already detained the accused beforehand. Does that mean the surrender ceremony was organised only to protect influential drug dealers and patrons?

If the policy makers of the government have tolerated such incidents, the vicious rampage of drugs will keep going in the society.

Let the case of 101 yaba traders of Cox’s Bazar’s Teknaf be re-investigated and re-tried for the sake of justice. Bangladesh cannot be turned into a haven for drug addicts and drug traders just to protect a handful of traders.