Small drug peddlers are being arrested and shot dead in the ongoing anti-narcotics drive while the godfathers are getting away scot free, said speakers at a seminar in the city.
Former chairman of National Human Rights Commission Mizanur Rahman said law enforcers were arresting people carrying a small number of yaba tablets or a few bottles of Phensedyl. He questioned how the illegal drugs were entering the country.
“Who is the powerful man doing yaba business here and performed Hajj or Umrah in Saudi Arabia with his family members?”
Addressing the seminar titled Illicit Drugs in South Asia and the Challenges in Bangladesh, the speakers welcomed the anti-drug drive, but raised questions about the way the law enforcers were dealing with it. They stressed on stopping drug smuggling at the border.
Madok Mukto Samaj, a non-government organisation, hosted the programme at Retired Armed Forces Officers Welfare Association (RAOWA) convention centre in the city's Mohakhali.
Former secretary Mokammel Haq said Teknaf Awami League lawmaker Abdur Rahman Bodi's name appeared in several news and intelligence reports on drug trade.
“It is sad that our home minister said they did not find any proof. If you cannot find any proof against Bodi or his family members, it is not possible to control supply of yaba into the country,” he added.
Reports prepared by five agencies have found that godfathers, mostly from the Awami League and its front organisations, public representatives and corrupt policemen were patronising drug trade, particularly the yaba trade.
Lawmaker Bodi's name appeared in the reports of all the five agencies who also listed several of his relatives and associates. The latest report of the Department of Narcotics Control named the MP from Cox's Bazar-4 as a patron of yaba trade in Ukhia-Teknaf, the gateway for smuggling yaba into Bangladesh.
When the law enforcers launched the countrywide drive on May 4, all eyes were on Teknaf and Cox's Bazar, particularly on Bodi and his family members. But they remained untouched mysteriously.
Bodi went to Saudi Arabia on June 1 and returned home on June 17. He, however, on different occasions had denied the allegation of his involvement in the drug trade.
Since the beginning of the drive, over 20,000 people have been arrested, and at least 163 alleged drug traders killed across the country. Most of them were killed in “gunfights” with police and Rapid Action Battalion.
About the use of law during the anti-drug drive, former inspector general of police Enamul Huq said everybody has equal right in the eyes of law.
“You cannot treat drug traders in two different ways. Harsh treatment of the small drug peddlers and soft treatment of the godfathers cannot be acceptable. Law enforcers should take action fairly against whoever is involved in drug trade,” he said.
The killing of Teknaf municipality councillor Akramul Haque during the drive raised serious questions about the operation after unverified audio clips of chilling conversations between the councillor and his family members had done the rounds on social media. The Rab claimed Akramul was killed in a “gunfight” between the elite force and drug dealers in Cox's Bazar on May 27.
Human rights defenders and activists described the incident as a hard proof of extrajudicial killing and demanded proper investigation into the “gunfight”. Diplomats in Dhaka also expressed deep concern over extrajudicial killings in the drive.
The former NHRC chairman said the proposed tougher anti-narcotics law would not be fruitful as the police's investigation system was corrupt.
“Our judiciary depends on the police's investigation. The police have a corrupt investigation system... It is a big question whether it is really possible to identify the drug lords or any criminal using with a corrupt system,” Mizanur said.
Former adviser to a caretaker government Akbar Ali Khan, also the chief guest of the programme, stressed the need for overhauling the administration, including the investigation agencies.
The drug trade has been going on for years because of the interest of some vested quarters in it, he said.
Yaba tablets were entering the country from Myanmar while phensedyl bottles from India and there was a “foreign interest” in the trade, Akbar told the seminar.
“There are two ways of fighting drugs. Firstly, we should find a way after discussing the issue at the state level. Secondly, we have to overhaul the authorities of the government.”
Welcoming the anti-drug drive, he said the drug problem would not be solved only by killing some criminals.
Prof Emdadul Haq of North South University presented the keynote at the seminar, chaired by Maj Gen (retd) Amsa Amin.
Earlier in the morning, an anti-drug procession was brought out from the RAOWA hall. Around 500 students from different schools and colleges joined the procession which ended at Jahangir Gate.