The ‘war on drugs’ will prove counterproductive in the long run

Nafiz Ahmed | Published: 00:05, Jun 12,2018 | Updated: 00:08, Jun 12,2018

 
 

If the claims made by the government are to be believed, then I think the availability of illegal arms should be more of a concern than drug trafficking.

IN THE nineteenth century, Hanoi faced a rather troublesome situation regarding massive growth of rats which is now known as the Great Hanoi Rat Massacre. The French colonial rulers were ruling over Hanoi at that time. They adopted a policy which granted rewards to every person who killed a rat and showed it to the authority. In hindsight, it may seem like a good step but practically it proved to be quite counterproductive as the number of rats actually increased after this policy had been adopted. Some citizens of Hanoi started farming rats in hope of being rewarded more handsomely.
I find this story more relevant than ever today after reading the recent reports of deaths of alleged drug dealers in the hand of the police in pursuance of the government’s ‘war on drugs’. In my opinion, the government’s extreme measures to stop the narcotics supply will ultimately worsen the situation. Most persons with background in law would probably agree that the actions of the government in this war on drugs are absolutely against everything human rights stand for. But in this article, I will not argue from a human rights point of view, rather the discussion will be solely from the view of an ordinary citizen.
If the government starts to reward the police officers for successful ‘cross-fires’ of the alleged drug dealers then just like the Hanoi incident, drug dealers and drug trafficking may increase rapidly to bring more awards and rewards in the officers’ houses. People involved in the narcotics business may cease to exist, but those who are benefitting by their deaths may ultimately work to increase their number. It is safe to say that no one willingly wants to surrender their license to exercise boundless power or kill their golden eggs laying duck.
Extra-judicial killing is an enemy of the rule of law. In an alleged police state, where it is transparent that good governance is as hard to find like it is to find a rainbow in winter, granting a license to kill without proper answering mechanism is a big slap on the face of rule of law. In this case, we have seen, instead of making them accountable, they are further being ‘praised’ for their actions. Do we really live in a state where it can be guaranteed that this infinite power to kill without having to answer for it will not greatly be misused for political purposes or simply to suit the needs of those who are in a position to exercise this power?
Another worrisome fact is that no detailed reports regarding the ‘shootouts’ are being released by the police or the government. All print and electronic media reports are confined to the detail that the deaths were caused by shootouts between the police and the drug dealers. To my limited extent of knowledge, no detailed report of what actually occurred and what other options the police had other than killing them is being published.
If the claims made by the government are to be believed, then I think the availability of illegal arms should be more of a concern than drug trafficking. The police claim that the deaths were caused by shootouts so it is to be assumed that even the average drug dealers around us are carrying arms which are enough to engage in full-fledged shootouts with the police force.
This publicly waged war on drugs may encourage the small drug dealers to carry arms for their safety and it will eventually lead to more violence in the streets. The drug epidemic is not something that will go away in a month or even a year. If the drug dealers are led to believe that they will be killed without a court trial if caught, they are likely to take more desperate measures to ensure not getting caught. This may even lead to more guns in the streets, more gang violence and dare I say, revenge killing of police officers.
In the Bangladesh and Ors vs Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust and Ors (2016) [69 DLR (AD) (2017) 63] case, the Appellate Division while citing Mahmudul Islam held, ‘No right can compare with the right to life without which all other rights are meaningless and rule of law can play its most significant role in this aspect. But the tolerant and rather approving attitude of the successive governments in respect of extrajudicial killings by the law enforcing agency in the name of ‘cross fire’ and ‘shoot out’ has seriously dented the operation of rule of law so much so that it will not be a misstatement to say that rule of law for the common men in the country exists only in the pages of the constitution.’ The Supreme Court’s observation is also applicable in today’s discussion as well. In my opinion, the steps taken in the name of anti-drug drive gravely violates the fundamental rights of the citizens and it can only prove to be counterproductive in solving a problem.

Nafiz Ahmed is a final year law student at North South University.

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