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Missing Premise

June 17, 2018

Bangladesh’s ongoing drug war is going to intensify in the coming weeks. Though heavy handed approach drew widespread criticism, Police and several other agencies vowed to eliminate drug from the country.

Amid the drive, a daily carried a report on a slum-drug-millionaire hailed from a slum in Roopnagar,Mirpur. He met somewhat the similar fate of other drug peddlers in the recent drive. According to the report, sprawling drug trade generated Tk 500 million ($6.02 million)per month in that Roopnagar slum. Clearly, there are many takers of his ill-gotten wealth. The slum-drug-millionaire is the lose thread to those other mysterious recipients of the money. He was just a lower-rung operator as per the interview of an industry insider.With his elimination, his mentors have become much more safer than before.

The purpose of this piece is neither the slum-drug-millionaire and his bosses. Rather, it is intended to focus on a premise which is completely absent from the discourse of ongoing drug war.

This narcotics epidemic is taking place while the number of cadre-based political parties is high at any moment in our history.

In the cadre-based party, a party worker’s full time vocation is politics and to look after party interests. In doing so, the worker disguised as moonlighter. But his main vocation is to advance tribal interest. The party in return takes care of the activist and doles out monthly payments. The businesses and offices they occupy are a smokescreen to continue their networking and political activity.

Two biggest cadre-based political parties are the ruling party and Jamaat.Communist party crudely functions in this way. Other left parties and nowadays BNP also follows the cadre-based party system.

It was pioneered by Jamaat,which assured jobs and businesses for its cadres. Later, other parties followed suit. This is how tribalism penetrated into and ruined our institutions and professionalism.

To raise cadres and to compete with rival parties, these parties need money. Often they depend on grey source of funds to finance parties. The grey sources are sources where the transaction records and flow of money are not documented. Drug money is one of these grey sources.

I would like to cite some figures reported in the press to give you an idea about the illegal money thrust into politics. Footpaths of Dhaka generate Tk 13 billion ($156.62 million) extortion money every year. Meanwhile, the size of annual methamphetamine trade inside the country is Tk 60 billion($722.89 million)

By the way, these are just conservative estimates. True figures far outweigh them. It is evident that there are beneficiary groups. Who are they? Are there any policy and measure to identify them?

It is naive to surmise that the slum-drug-millionaire’s million Taka worth empire will vanish overnight with his demise. Since in the society and politics needs of sustaining this kind of business are still there. So, killing the peddlers and lower-rung operators are more like treating the metastasis of a seriously ill patient. New replacement may fill their shoes.

Cadre-based political structure makes use of this clandestine money through numerous ways. It is interesting to note that this political culture also corrupts the law-enforcement system. For this reason, drugs spread across the country much faster. Places that have higher concentration of law-enforcement installations and personnel are also happened to be drug trade and consumption hub. India too has a porous border with Myanmar and the country has more megacities than Bangladesh, yet methamphetamine’ invasion of Bangladesh, which has much lower average formal and informal wage compared to India, overwhelmed everyone. In India, cadre-based culture has not yet taken a virulent form. In addition, Indian democracy features individualism and tolerates dissenters.

If there were no protection and tutelage from law-enforcement agencies, drug spots would not flourish across the country.

Concerned citizens want to know how many of the law-enforcement personnel who took money from drug traders met the fate of the drug peddlers.

One thing has become obvious that the gunned down drug resellers / spot owners are not the only problem.Maybe they are a lead to the bigger problem.

Prevailing political culture and labyrinthine digestive tubes to feed party cadres not only atrophied our institutions, but also cornered brave and independent voices.

Gone are the days when individual dissent voice within the tribal political party stands up to his convictions regardless of the desires and position set by the party.

Those receiving bullets in the ongoing war on drugs have fewer options left before them. Again creating enough and decent options for living are the task of politicians. Political parties are locked into entrenched warfare and want to hold their ground to have complete dominance over the rivals. The flip side of existing political system is that it narrows down options of decent living. In fact , it is highly conducive to spur the growth of clandestine businesses. With great pain we the commoners observe that this whole line of argument is missing from the consideration of the people waging the war on drugs.

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