Amid the killings of drug dealers in growing 'gunfights', Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan on Monday said the crackdown on the drug dealers will continue.
"No drug peddlers will be spared, no matter how powerful they are socially or politically. Law enforcement agencies will continue the drive against them to bring them to justice," he said while talking to UNB at the Secretariat.
A total of 29 people, mostly suspected drug dealers, were killed in reported gunfights with law enforcers in the last 10 days till Monday.
The Home Minister said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has instructed his ministry to take a 'zero-tolerance' policy against the drug trade and stop it at any cost.
As per the directives, an anti-narcotic drive has been launched making a division-wise list of drug dealers based on intelligence information, he said.
Asked how many are there on the list, Asaduzzaman said the exact number is not known, but it is substantial.
He refuted the claim of 'extrajudicial killings' or 'crossfires' in the name of anti-narcotics drive, saying the drug dealers have firearms. "Whenever law enforcers go to arrest them, they often open fire on them forcing them to retaliate in self-defence which resulted in one or two incidents of killings."
The Home Minister claimed that gunfights take place in all the countries dealing with drugs. "We don't think it won't happen in Bangladesh. We witness drug dealers open fire first. So it's normal that police will fire back," he said describing it as an act of self-defence, rather than 'gunfight' or 'crossfire'.
Asked only small fish are getting killed in 'gunfights', the minister said the law enforcement agencies are conducting the anti-narcotics drive following the list. "Every drug peddler will be punished."
As of Monday, he said, mobile court drives have sentenced over 2,000 drug dealers to different jail terms ranging from 1-6 months. "Only one or two isolated incidents of drug dealers are getting killed which are hitting the headlines," he said.
Replying to a query whether Bangladesh is following the path taken the Philippines and Thailand against drugs, Asaduzzaman said the law enforcement agencies will follow the list compiled by intelligence agencies.
Asked whether members of law enforcement agencies are involved in the drug peddling, he revealed that the list contains people from a wide range of occupations and almost all spheres of society.
In response to another query about human rights violations during drives, Asaduzzaman said they never apply any "shoot-at-sight" policy, but only fire in self-defence. "We aren't arresting drug dealers to shoot them. It's our highest priority to bring them to justice."
According to sources at the Home Ministry, cocaine, Phensidyl and heroin were used to be smuggled into Bangladesh from India in the past. But due to strong diplomatic endeavours, that has reduced substantially.
Now, the spread of Yaba is rampant as it is easily being smuggled from neighbouring Myanmar. Despite repeated appeals to curb narcotics smuggling, no response was found from Myanmar.