For the first time in the country, around 100 yaba godfathers and dealers will surrender today at a formal programme in Teknaf, the entry point for the deadly drug from Myanmar.
Of them, 10 are local elected representatives, 35 top listed godfathers and the rest listed dealers. They are accused in three to 16 cases each, district police sources said.
The ceremony will be held on Teknaf Pilot School ground in the presence of Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan, Home Secretary Mustafa Kamal Uddin and Inspector General of Police Mohammad Javed Patwary, said police.
A big stage has been set up and a seating arrangement made for 5,000 people. On the left side of the stage, a space of about 20ft by 20ft has been kept for those surrendering today.
Police have been making announcements in various areas of Teknaf for the last four days and asking locals to join it.
Those surrendering today will “not receive any general amnesty” but have to face legal action as per the law, police sources say.
The formal surrender comes after a massive anti-narco crackdown left nearly 300 people, including 40 from Teknaf, dead and some 25,000 arrested since May last year.
Sources say the godfathers and dealers have been kept at the safe house in Cox's Bazar Police Lines since January 10. They are served food like bread, eggs, beef, chicken, biriyani and seasonal fruits.
The family members of a number of yaba dealers expressed happiness at the ceremony while many locals have mixed reaction.
Mohammad Yunus, father of yaba dealer Nurul Bashar Nowshad, said he is happy as his son will be safe upon surrendering to police.
M Gafur Uddin Chowdhury, chairman of Palongkhali union, has a different view. “A large number of people got involved in the yaba trade after the surrender drama began,” he said.
Talking to The Daily Star on Thursday, he said, “The godfathers are supposed to surrender before the court or at the police stations. But police have kept them in the safe house for weeks and now they are going to hold a ceremony.
“This gives a wrong message as the carriers will think that they also will get such an escape route after doing the business.”
RISE OF NEW DEALERS
Talking to this newspaper, Md Noor Hossain, chairman of Sabrang union, said that smuggling earlier was limited to certain people but now their associates have begun to indulge in it.
Besides, some rickshaw pullers, thieves, pickpockets, bus supervisors, day labourers and shopkeepers, who used to be carriers, have started yaba business on their own, as the kingpins are either in police custody for surrender or on the run.
Law enforcers said the number of such new dealers would be no less than 500 and they took control of the business after godfathers and dealers went to police for surrender.
HK Anwar, chairman of Hnila union, claimed that they also came to know about some new faces in the yaba smuggling.
Take the case of Kamal Hossain, 30, a residence of Jaliapara in Teknaf. Just four to five years back, he was widely known as a pickpocket in the locality.
He started working as a carrier for yaba trader Nur Mohammad, who went into hiding after the drives began last year.
Now he is on law enforcers' list of yaba smuggler. He spends most of his time in Chattogram, where he has two houses, said locals.
Kamal could not be reached for comment.
Nurul Amin, 32, a rickshaw puller of Hakimpara village in Teknaf, was living hand to mouth just four years back. Now he has a one-storey building and two dozen CNG-run auto-rickshaws.
Two days ago, police conducted a drive in his house after getting information about a yaba shipment. But he managed to flee with the pills, according to sources in law enforcement agencies.
Talking to this newspaper, Nurul said no one wants to see others happy. “My rival group is spreading misleading information against me.”
Jahangir Alam, 32, had nothing to do for a living just three years back. He started working as a carrier for Myanmar citizen Kala Ahmed, who is currently in Maungdaw town of the neighbouring country.
Now a smuggler, Jahangir is the owner of a mini truck, two-microbuses, a truck and a one-story building. He was not available for comment.
Sultan Ahmed, 32, a day labourer of ward-9 of Palongkhali union, is now owner of two tin-shade buildings. Sultan earlier used to go to Myanmar as a carrier, but now he brings the pills for his own business, locals claimed.
Sultan, who is wanted in a case filed with Akbar Shah Police Station in Chattogram, refuted the allegations and said he is not involved in yaba trade.
He asked this correspondent to talk to those yaba dealers who have become rich. “I am just a poor man,” he said.
Md Salman, 30, a resident of ward-7 of Teknaf, was a bus supervisor five years back. But he is now the owner of several shops in Teknaf municipality area and a lavish bungalow in Chowdhurypara of Teknaf.
Two months back, law enforcers seized one lakh yaba pills from a drum hidden in the bungalow, sources added.
Sources say the arrival of big yaba shipments has stopped but the small ones are still coming from Myanmar, thanks to the new smugglers and dealers.
Contacted, ABM Masud Hossain, superintendent of police in Cox's Bazar, said they have got some new names and would go for action, verifying their roles after the surrender ceremony.
About today's surrender, Masud said they have taken all necessary steps. They prepared a list of around 100 but are expecting to include some more at the last moment.
He said they are hopeful that the programme will yield a good result but tough action will be taken if anyone gets involved in the business again.