One hundred and two people in Cox’s Bazar having links to drug smuggling or peddling surrendered to the district police on Saturday amid the government’s countrywide anti-drug crackdown which saw over 300 people killed since mid-May 2018.
Mediated by a private television channel, Channel 24, the police arranged a large gathering at Teknaf Pilot High School where the suspects approached home minister Asaduzzaman Khan in the morning for allowing them to return to normal life.
Inspector general of police Muhammad Javed Partwary and local Awami League lawmakers and representatives from different agencies were present.
Out of the 102 persons, the police branded 30 as ‘god fathers’ or patronisers while rest 72 were considered drug peddlers.
Of the 30 persons, 13 were relatives, including 4 brothers, of controversial ruling party leader Abdur Rahman Bodi, also a former lawmaker from Teknaf, while seven others were elected representatives in Teknaf.
Bodi was not seen at the programme but one of Bodi’s cousins Kamrul Hasan Russel threatened journalists during the surrender programme and said he would ‘see’ the journalists once he was released on bail.
All but one was from different areas of Teknaf upazila, according to the list provided by the police.
The surrender took place just 10 months after Rapid Action Battalion director general Benazir Ahmed in mid-August 2018 announced that they conducted the special drive since May 4 across the country and that it was not targeting any specific individual or quarter.
Prior to the surrender, most of the suspects were kept in the ‘safe-house’ provided by the police but on the day the suspects came up with methamphetamine-enriched Yaba pills produced in bordering Myanmar.
The home minister told the gathering that Bangladesh was not an illicit drug producing country rather the smugglers brought those in from other country.
‘These drug smugglers will not be spared. Each of them will be hunted down,’ he said.
The minister also warned that if any member of law enforcement agencies was found involved in drug smuggling, he or she would be also face similar fate.
He also asked the drugs peddlers were still active to surrender.
The officials did not respond to any questions over the surrender while all the 102 persons were sent to a ‘special’ cell in the district jail on court order in two cases — one for drugs and the other for arms — filed with the Teknaf Police Station in connection with the surrender.
An additional deputy inspector general at the police headquarters told New Age that they took the surrender as test case in the fight against Yaba which started coming to Bangladesh on a large scale in 2006.
But debate over the surrender process has already been raging among different stakeholders.
The proposal of surrender was initiated by the drug dealers three months ago after the government announced in May 2018 a nationwide crackdown on drugs.
In the crackdown, at least 304 people, mostly carriers, were either killed in ‘gunfight; or bullet-riddled bodies were found with drugs amid local and international criticism over human rights abuses.
Drug dens have been busted in Cox’s Bazar or elsewhere and over 30,000 suspects are currently languishing in jail.
As the drives started, most of the alleged god father went abroad while over two dozens of others surrendered to the district court with their cases pending.
A police officer who worked in Cox’s Bazar for long told New Age that the surrender would not work for a longer time as drug lords were still out of the bars.
According the police documents, the police had set a set of conditions for the surrender including informing the authorities about drug dealers still running their business and not getting involved in drugs business any further.
Chattogram range deputy inspector general of police Khandker Golam Faruq said Anti-Corruption Commission, Criminal Investigation Department of police and National Board of Revenue would work on the wealth of the drug dealers.
Akram Hossain, a local journalist in Cox’s Bazar, said he negotiated a surrender of 37 robbery suspects in October 2018, and got the latest proposal from the drug pedlars, and he conveyed the proposal to the officials in police and higher authorities.
Initially the proposal was refused by home minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal, but later he held a number of informal meetings with the police high-ups over the matter, said a person who attended one of such meetings.
Talking to New Age, a number of residents in Cox’s Bazar also expressed their doubt about the purpose of the surrender when controversial ruling party leader Abdur Rahman Bodi in a public gathering on January 12 asked Yaba traders at Teknaf and Ukhia to surrender within five days or face ‘terrible consequences’.
Ruling Awami League chose Bodi’s wife Shahin Akhter for the Cox’s Bazar-4 seat in the December 30 parliamentary elections amid widespread allegation against him of supporting drug smuggling from Myanmar.
Bodi, however, always denied the allegation and raised question over the role of law enforcement agencies.
Among those who surrendered to the police are four brothers of Bodi — Abdus Sukkor, Aminur Rahman alias Abdul Amin, Safiqul Islam and Faysal Rahman —, his cousins Sahed Kamal, Mohammad Alam, Kamrul Islam, Mong Mong Ching Rakhine, his nephew Sahedur Rahman Nipu, Didar Mia, son of Teknaf Upazila Parishad chairman Jafar Alam, and his brother’s son Mohammad Siraj, Jamal
Hossen, Nillah Union Parished member, Nurul Huda, member of Nillah
Union Parishad, and his brother Nurul Kabir, Teknaf Poura Councillor Nurul Bashar Nurshad, Saha Alam husband of Teknaf Poura councillor Kohinor Begum, Enamul Hoque, member of Teknaf Sadar Union Parishad, Syed Hossen, UP member, Syed Ahmed Sato, Safiqul Islam, Mohammad Yunus, Akram Hossen, Rezaul Karim, Mozammel Hoque, Jobair Hossen, Maruf Bin Khalil, Mohammad Yunus, Ziaur Rahman and Abdur Rahman.
Shajahan Ansari, an executive of Cox’s Bazar District Football Association, also surrendered.
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