Averting diversion and manipulation remains key in war on drugs

Published : Tuesday, 5 February, 2019 at 12:00 AM


Spread of drugs has been one of the most devastating problems of Bangladesh today as it has spread its black claws all over the country and is destroying the future generation. Bangladesh has made tremendous developments during the last decade under the astute direction of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and that is going to continue with her successive third term as the head of state. 

However, along with that development comes the question of sustaining the progress which is a duty bestowed on the shoulders of the youths of the nation. But drug abuse is actually damaging the capacity of the youths of Bangladesh. Hence, it is not the problem of the society or the families of the drug addicts. Rather it is a national issue and the way we are handling this phenomena might just not be right considering the developments in the past few weeks.

Unfortunately the government has no concrete statistics on the number of drug addicts but the non-government organizations working on eliminating drugs provide us an approximate figure which is also supported by the Department of Narcotics Control. According to that estimate, Bangladesh has at least 7 million drug addicts and 5 million of them are addicted to yaba pills. It is as per the last statistics but the number of drug addicts must be higher right now. The influx of deadly yaba seems to have gone beyond control despite efforts by law enforcement agencies to contain it. The crazy mind-altering pill is available throughout the country and penetrated all levels of the society.

Drug abuse is a ghastly threat in the society with grave biological, social, financial, psychological and security effect on the individuals, families and the societies. Over 52 percent of the population of Bangladesh falls in the age group of 15 to 35 years and in Bangladesh about 80 per cent of the drug addicts are adolescents and young men of that age group. It is the prime group that is now getting addicted to the deadly drugs like yaba, which gives them temporary happiness but in the long run destroys them both psychologically and physically. It causes anxiety and aggression while damaging kidney, heart, liver, respiratory organs and brain as well.

Drugs have destroyed the future of many youths of our country along with the future and name of their families. Drug compulsion leads to collapse of family ties. The drug addict is a threat to the family. Normal activities of the family disrupts due to anti-social activities of the abuser. The drug addict youth often drops out from school, college or university education. It makes a family financially cripple. Drug makes even a highly talented person lame. Drug abusing service holder loses his job because of irregularities. Social separation and estrangement are very frequent. 

The long term effect of addiction is alarming as drugs can distort perception thus increasing accident proneness. We cannot forget the incident of Oishee, daughter of a police officer who under the influence of yaba has slaughtered both her parents with the help of some other yaba-addict fiends and now in prison for life. Once a promising life now rots in jail. We can definitely claim that most of the crimes of Bangladesh like; murder, rape, suicide, brutal fights, robbery and even terrorist activities today are being conducted under the influence of drugs especially yaba.

Bangladesh’s future is under severe threat due to the widespread drug abuse as with lame youths, none will be there to become leaders of different sectors in the future and the progress of the country cannot be sustained. Moreover, it is easy to misguide the drug addicted youths and they can be prime targets of the terrorist organizations to get done acts of terrorism which has been a concern for our country for last few years. 

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, pioneer of making Bangladesh the role model for development in front of the world must have realized this threat as on May 3, 2018 at an event of RAB, she spoke of her government’s strong stand against drugs. Law-enforcing agencies followed it up with countrywide anti-drug operations.

Along with RAB and police, detective branch, railway police and Border Guard Bangladesh strongly participated in this war on drugs. Many drug dealers were caught and gunned down in this operation only within a few weeks. Drug dealers were terrorized. However, human-rights organizations have criticized the killings in gunfight with the law enforcers amid serious concerns about the spread of the drugs in all spheres of society.

Though there are several types of drugs available in Bangladesh, this operation was actually against yaba which mostly comes to Bangladesh from neighboring Myanmar. Despite catching crores of yaba pills in a year, it is only 10 per cent of the total influx and the rest 90 per cent hits the market. It should be contained at entry points by putting up maximum efforts as required.

On the face of crackdown on the drug dealers, it seemed like a syndicate of yaba traders was formed who contacted the government through a journalist with a proposal of their surrender. The government has welcomed their initiative and is now in the process of making that proposal a reality. These traders are supposed to surrender during the first part of this month as they have gathered at some part of Cox’sBazar.  They are even using social media to publicize their surrender. Though a positive outcome, it comes with some concern.

There were reports that this syndicate wants its illegal assets, which they obtained from drug trade, to be untouched. Their logic is if the assets are crocked, then there is no point for them to surrender. It reminds us the famous story of the 1980’s Colombian drug cartels – Pablo Escobar’s Madeline Cartel and his opposing Cali Cartel. Both the cartels tried to manipulate the government to escape arrest and punishment by creating a hoax of their surrender with all their assets and business intact. Escobar even surrendered once by creating his own jail from where he conducted his full operation without any threats from the government. But fortunately those illusions could not be sustained and both the cartels were brought down by killing of Escobar and arrest of all four heads of Cali Cartel.

The law against narcotics trade is very harsh in almost all the countries of the world. The developed countries which allow comparatively less punishment for major crimes also have strong punishment against narcotics trade. Bangladesh also has anti-drugs law – The Narcotics Control Act 1990. It has provisions for death penalty as well as life imprisonment for drugs trade. 
Now, we, as citizens, feel if these drug traders are spared with their lives; it will be the greatest favor to them. No more favor can be provided. They cannot sustain their illegally achieved assets. If they are allowed to do so, then many will be motivated to obtain loads of wealth through drugs trade for a few years and then to surrender keeping the lavish lives and assets intact. We cannot be weak in dealing with these drug peddlers.

The government should be very careful in crafting the surrender of the yaba traders and must bring them under justice sparing their lives in exchange of complete know-how of the total drugs trade operation in Bangladesh. The government should run vigorous anti-drug campaign to make the consumers aware. Moreover, the actions against the drugs traders should be campaigned widely so that the family members of the drug dealers get alert and force the drug dealer in their family to surrender. 

In these campaigns famed personalities from different areas like; Dr Muhammed Zafar Iqbal and Dr Sultana Kamal from intellectuals; Anisul Hoque from literature; Debapriya Bhattacharya, Rehman Sobhan, Dr Mohammad Yunus, Fazle Hasan Abed from economics; Allama Shah Ahmad Shafi from religion; Shakib Al Hasan Mashrafee bin Mortuza from sports; Sarah Begum Kobori, Ananta Jalil, Mosharrof Karim from media and other celebrities from different sectors should meticulously participate in these campaigns. 

Political commitment is also required. Along with all government leaders, opposition leaders like Dr. Kamal Hossain, Mirza Fakhrul Islam and H M Ershad can declare year-long anti-drug campaigns to show their commitment to the people’s welfare. These campaigns must run in every educational institution. The religious leaders at every mosque, temple, and church must repeatedly communicate the destruction drugs may cause. With such thorough campaign, we might succeed in cutting the demand for drugs as punishment or law cannot obstruct from taking drugs and if demand is there, supply will be arranged in some form.

The human rights activists and NGO personnel should also actively participate in these campaigns as eliminating drugs is the new war for everyone. Lucrative monetary prize should be declared for the citizens to inform on drug dealers. It should be a 360 degree war.

PM Sheikh Hasina has always delivered on her words and we believe she will win this war on drugs too. But everyone related should be careful about manipulation from the drug traders. At least for this war, strict measures are required while being careful to not harm any innocent person. To secure our future and to sustain the progress and development of Bangladesh we must eliminate drugs from our beloved country and we wish for pure success of every anti-drug operation in the upcoming days.

The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and Vice-Chairman, Democracy Research Center (DRC)

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