Islam prohibits the consumption of alcohol. A fair number of Muslims drink but they are either very secretive about it and just do it occasionally. In Muslim countries that have alcohol prohibitions alcoholic drinks are generally available at hotels with Western customers. Sometimes alcohol is offered to Western guests by Westernized Bangladeshis.

Alcohol is forbidden in Bangladesh. Drinking on Friday (the Muslim sabbath) is especially frowned upon. If you bring liquor into the country it will be confiscated from you at the airport. Despite this people in Bangladesh still drink. Alcoholic drinks are sold in some hotels. To drink alcohol in Bangladesh, you need to have a legal permit. Muslims have to have a medical prescription to obtain an alcohol permit. When buying alcohol in a hotel you may need to sign a form that states that you are a non-Muslim for small fee. You can also obtain a license (ask at your hotel how to get one) that allows to but alcohol from government liquors stores in major cities.

Today, most legal liquors are imported. Taxes and tariffs are high, amounting to 25 percent of the imported price. Bangladesh has only one distillery: the state-owned Carew and Co. It was established by a British businessman in 1887. [Source: Ridwanul Hoque, Sharowat Shamin, Development and Cooperation, November 14, 2018]

Most local people who drink alcohol drink beer or clear moonshine liquor made from sugar cane. Illegally-produced liquor is widely available. Sometimes the moonshine is spiked with methyl alcohol and people go blind or die. Crown Energy Drink and Hunter Malt Beverage are two brands of local beer. Hunter is the first beer brewed in Bangladesh. Its can looks like a Foster’s can.

According to the academic paper named below: In Bangladesh, an alcoholic beverage is defined as any liquor with an alcohol content of ≥0.5%. These alcoholic beverages include beer (5% alcohol in volume), wine (12% alcohol in volume), spirits (40% alcohol in volume) and locally made alcoholic beverages, which have variable alcohol content. Locally produced alcoholic beverages are made from sorghum, maize, millet, rice, cider, fruit wine or fortified wine (tari, bangle mod, haria, choani, do chuani, mohua, etc.). In Bangladesh, the consumption of alcohol is strictly prohibited by law, for religious reasons. [Source: “Alcohol consumption among adults in Bangladesh: results from STEPS 2010 Jessica Yasmine Islam,” M Mostafa Zaman and Mahfuz R Bhuiyan, et al., WHO South East Asia J Public Health, April 2017]

“Despite this prohibition, alcohol is available across the country and is produced locally. There are government-approved alcohol-producing companies, which produce local brands of vodka, rum, whisky, gin and brandy. Additionally, Bangladesh is home to a privately licensed brewery, which uses imported malts and hops. Distilleries located in different areas of Bangladesh use molasses from local sugar mills as raw material for manufacturing spirits. In rural areas of Bangladesh, crude forms of alcohol are also produced, by fermentation of boiled rice, sugar-cane and molasses. Harmful use of alcohol is increasingly becoming a national concern and very few people with alcohol problems in Bangladesh seek de-addiction treatment. Anecdotal information obtained from law-enforcement authorities and local health-care providers indicates that alcohol misuse is becoming a common problem in Bangladesh, particularly in urban areas.

Annual alcohol consumption per capita: 0. 2 pure alcohol in liters:(compared to 17.4 liters in Belarus; 9.2 liters in the United States; and 2.4 liters in Japan). Bangladesh’s alcohol consumption is among the lowest in the world (187 out of 191 countries). [Source: World Health Organization data, Wikipedia Wikipedia ]

Alcoholism (deaths per 100,000 people): .47 (compared to 14.68 in Russia and 2.26 in the United States. [Source: World Health Organization, World Life Expectancy ]

In April and May, 1999, more than a hundred died after drinking a batch of cheap locally -brewed whiskey purposely laced with methyl alcohol to make its more potent.

Bangladesh’s Strange Liquor Laws

The sale of alcohol without a license is banned in Bangladesh but both legally-produced and illegally-produced liquor is widely available. On Bangladesh’s state liquor license,Inam Ahmed and Shakhawat Liton wrote in the Daily Star: “It is a piece of paper full of lies and yet it is the legal government document that allows a person to drink alcohol in Bangladesh. In 1950, a legal provision styled East Bengal Excise (foreign and country liquor prohibitions and restrictions) Rules was made which authorised the Department of Narcotics Control to give people drinking permit. The paper authorises a person to possess and consume liquor after a government doctor certifies that the person needs to consume liquor on “medical grounds”. [Source: Inam Ahmed and Shakhawat Liton, Daily Star, September 25, 2018]

The certificate permits a person to consume up to seven units of foreign liquor a month. A unit of foreign liquor means one quart (1.14 litres) bottle of any kind of spirit, including liquor, or three quart bottles of wine. If someone wants to avoid being harassed by the police, all he has to do is go to a bar or licensed vendor of alcohol and pay the legal fee of Tk 2,000 and some additional money. The certificate will be ready within a few days with the doctor certifying that you have a “medical condition” for which you need to drink.

“Such an archaic law perhaps exists nowhere in the world except in India and Pakistan as a legacy of the 1909 Bengal Excise Act. Based on this law, the Pakistan government had issued the drinking permit guideline in 1950. Later in 1990 a new Narcotic Control Act was made which said no Bangladeshi Muslim person will be given the permit to drink alcohol without the written prescription of a civil surgeon or an associate professor of medicine of a medical college.

“The doctor must mention in the prescription the disease for which alcohol is required to drink. Anybody drinking without licence will be punished up to two years in jail or a fine of Tk 5,000 or both. However absurd this law may sound, it is being used both to harass people politically or to make money out of the drinkers by the police....Many people The Daily Star talked to have said they are often subjected to extraction of money by police at check posts if they do not carry the permit. According to officials at the Department of Narcotics Control, around 13, 000 people have permit to drink foreign liquor while 28,000 have permit to consume local liquor. But the size of liquor market suggests the number of people who drink alcohol is many folds bigger than the number of permits. This questions the effectiveness of the system of permission.

History of Alcohol Laws in Bangladesh

Ridwanul Hoque and Sharowat Shamin wrote: “From the point of view of the colonised people in South Asia, liquor was “western”, while cannabis and locally-made alcoholic drinks, such as the traditional rice beer of indigenous Adivasi tribes, were part of the domestic culture.Today, most liquors are imported. The law that regulated drugs and alcohol for many years was passed in 1990 (Act No. 20 of 1990). It is based on the constitutional obligation that the state must adopt “effective measures” to prevent the consumption of intoxicating drinks and drugs. [Source: Ridwanul Hoque, Sharowat Shamin, Development and Cooperation, November 14, 2018]

“Bangladeshi law makes distinctions for specific cultures and religions: Muslims are forbidden to drink alcohol, which fits Islamic rules. Exceptions are made for medical reasons. Patients can get a permit only if an authorised doctor makes a prescription. Those who adhere to other faiths are allowed to consume alcohol, but they are also supposed to get a formal permit.

“Foreigners are allowed to drink only in licensed bars or restaurants, of which there are only few. According to an amendment passed in 2000, Adivasis and other disadvantaged communities who traditionally make and consume alcoholic drinks may continue doing so.

“In theory, alcohol prohibition is thus quite stringent. Breaches of the law are to be punished with two years of prison. Alcohol is not available in shops; there are only very few legal outlets. What many people do not know, moreover, is that drinking alcohol without permit is even forbidden in the privacy of one’s home. In practice, however, private drinking seems to be tolerated by the state. The government sometimes runs drives against the unlawful trade or consumption of alcohol, with mobile courts summarily punishing individuals or restaurants if found guilty. Most cases of seizure of illicit alcohol regard smuggled liquors for which no tariffs were paid. Two serious issues are that: domestically made spirits regularly cause poisoning, which all too often kills people, and drink-driving, especially among the drivers of long-haul buses and trucks, leading to deadly traffic accidents. All summed up, the enforcement of alcohol-related rules is rather weak. Prosperous men, among whom the occasional whiskey is quite popular, have little reason to fear the law.

Bangladeshi Politicians Arrested and Jailed for Alcohol Possession

Even though drinking alcohol is forbidden by Islam, many members of the political and social elite drink whiskey. Sometimes with nasty consequences. In 2007, former communication minister Anwar Hossain Monju — a member of the army-backed caretaker government — was jailed for five years and fined Tk 10,000 during the last for possessing 21 bottles of foreign liquor. Similar charges were brought against BNP leader Moudud Ahmed during the purge against politicians. Moudud was arrested for illegally possessing a few bottles of wine and cans of beer confiscated during an army raid on his house and then imprisoned for two months without a hearing under draconian emergency powers.

Randeep Ramesh wrote in The Guardian: Moudud Ahmed, a London-trained barrister and the country's last law minister, has been held without a hearing after he was picked up when soldiers raided his home in early April. Security forces said they found 14 bottles of wine and 32 cans of beer in his kitchen after a twelve-hour search. Mr Ahmed's arrest was said to be part of an "anti-corruption" drive. The 70-year-old disappeared from public view surfacing only briefly to hear why he had been jailed. [Source: Randeep Ramesh, The Guardian, June 1, 2007]

“Mr Ahmed's wife, Hasna, a noted environmentalist, is in hiding in the UK. Speaking to the Guardian, she said her husband had been "tortured mentally and physically. He is not a well man. He has been taken to hospital three times. The jail conditions are harsh. It is not, there is no toilet just a hole in the floor". “My husband did have alcohol but it was for a party in honour of the German ambassador as he was to take up a position as a professor at Heidelberg University. But this is not to my knowledge an offence under any emergency law. We are not a Taliban state. This could not have happened if there was democracy in Bangladesh." Mrs Ahmed says her husband has told friends that she should not return to Bangladesh. "I do not want to be a stateless person," she said. More than 170 politicians, businessmen and former bureaucrats have been detained since the interim government, backed by the army, took over in January under emergency rule.

Smoking in Bangladesh

Cigarette Consumption per Capita: 744 in 2016, compared to 6330 in Luxembourg and 89.3 in India [Source: Wikipedia ]

Adults who smoke: 20.3 percent, ranking in the world: 65 oout of 85 countries. [Source: World Health Organization 2015 ranking Wikipedia ]

Adult men who smoke: 47 percent [Source: WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic (2008) Wikipedia ]

Adult women who smoke: 3.8 percent [Source: WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic (2008) Wikipedia ]

Lung cancer rate (age-standardized rate per 100,000 people): 11.9, compared to 56.7 in Hungary and 35.1 in the United States [Source: World Life Expectancy ]

The number of cigarettes smoked a year increased from 510 in 1972 to 630 in 1982 to 990 in 1992, when ranked 67th in the world in cigarette consumption. You can see men urinating in a gutter, smoking and having a conversation.

Betel Nut

Betel nut, the dried fruit of the areca palm, is enjoyed by people in Bangladesh. The fresh areca nut is chewed, sometimes wrapped in betel leaf or with tobacco and often mixed with lime, which helps bring out the active ingredients. People that chew it say its sets the nervous system buzzing and warms the body.

Betel nut is a mildly narcotic nut (seed) that comes from the betel palm ( Areca catechu ). Used for at least 2,500 years, it is popular in India, South Asia, China, the Pacific and Southeast Asia. Theophratus discussed it. There are references to it in ancient Sanskrit texts.

An estimated one tenth of humanity regularly chews betel nut. In many places, everybody chews betel nut, even children. It can be bought at almost any store. Many people grow it in their backyards. Some people even believe that ghosts chew it. Others regard it as magical and offer it gods and use it to ward off the evil eye.

Betel nuts are usually sucked on or chewed like chewing tobacco, but the way they are prepared varies from region to region. They are often prepared by boiling, drying and slicing. In India, Taiwan, the Philippines and Southeast Asia, betel nut is usually dried and cut into small pieces and sold already wrapped in a ready-to-chew pepper or betel leave. In India it is dried and called paan. Paan Masala refers to an aromatic been blend of spices and condiments chewed with betel.



Cheroots are popular truncated cigars made from a choice blend of tobacco, bark, stems, roots and sundry leaves wrapped in a corn husk tied with a red silk thread. Found in India and South Asia but especially popular in Myanmar, they are smoked by men and women and even children. They can be home-made or manufactured. Manufactured ones have both ends clipped. Some are quite large.

Cheroots are smoked in Bangladesh mainly near the Myanmar border. One visitor to a cheroot factory wrote on Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree forum: “It turns out cheroots have very little tobacco and are mainly a mixture of flavorings, bark and a little tobacco. Also all natural, even down to the glue made from sticky rice. They're surprisingly very nice”.

Cheroots are a tradition in Burma and India. They became popular among the British during the days of the British Empire. The word cheroot is derived from the French word cheroute, which comes from a Tamil word meaning "roll of tobacco." It is believed that the French immersed this word into their language during the 16th century, when they attempted to influence the cultures of South India with the cultures of their own.

Illegal Drugs in Bangladesh

Illegal drug use is not really a big problem in Bangladesh. As far as trafficking is concerned it is more of transit country for illegal drugs produced in neighboring countries than it is destination or source of illegal drugs. The illegal use, possession, or distribution of narcotics can result in severe punishment. Yaba (a mixture of caffeine and methamphetamine) is an illegal methamphetamine available on the street. Avoid purchase of this or any other illegal drugs. Cannabis is used but is much easier to get in India than in Bangladesh. Opium may be used among tribal people near the Myanmar border, [Source: Crime and Safety Report — OSAC, United States Department of State, 2020]

Ridwanul Hoque and Sharowat Shamin wrote: In Bangladesh, people who take drugs or drink alcohol have a bad reputation. They are likely to be told things like: “You drink alcohol! It’s haram; you filthy spoiled rich!” Or: “You do drugs! You’re completely spoiled!” [Source: Ridwanul Hoque, Sharowat Shamin, Development and Cooperation, November 14, 2018]

“Cannabis, which used to be very common in our country’s past, is seen with a little bit more leniency than hard drugs. It is actually less dangerous and less addictive than more potent drugs such as heroin. Nonetheless, the government handles both kinds of narcotics more restrictively than its counterparts in many western countries. In spite of the prohibitive law, drug problems are escalating. A new drug called yaba (a mixture of caffeine and methamphetamine) is imported from neighbouring Myanmar. In the context of the recent influx of Rohingya refugees, yaba trafficking has increased. Observers say that yaba is now the most popular drug in Bangladesh.

Cannabis use: percentage of the population aged 15 — 64: 3.3 percent (compared to 27 percent in Israel, 16.2 percent in the United States and .3 percent in Japan [Source: World Drug reports of 2011 and 2006 by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Wikipedia Wikipedia ]

Opiates use: percentage of the population aged 15 — 64: 0.37 percent (compared to 3.31 percent in Iran, 1.04 percent in the United States and .004 percent in Singapore. [Source: World Drug reports of 2011 and 2006 by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Wikipedia Wikipedia ]

Drug use deaths (per 100,000 people): 1.07 (compared to 15.93 in Ukraine and 0.30 in Japan. [Source: World Health Organization, World Life Expectancy ]

Illegal Drug Laws in Bangladesh

Ridwanul Hoque and Sharowat Shamin wrote: “In the 19th century, the British colonial power introduced legislation to regulate the production, distribution and taxation of dangerous drugs as well as alcohol. The trade in liquors, other alcoholic beverages, opium and cannabis were a heated issue — not least, because British merchants made huge profits by exporting opium to China. [Source: Ridwanul Hoque, Sharowat Shamin, Development and Cooperation, November 14, 2018]

“From the point of view of the colonised people in South Asia, liquor was “western”, while cannabis was part of the domestic culture. The law that regulated drugs and alcohol for many years was passed in 1990 (Act No. 20 of 1990). It is based on the constitutional obligation that the state must adopt “effective measures” to prevent the consumption of intoxicating drinks and drugs. Indeed, Bangladesh is overfulfilling international commitments made in the context of the UN. Law enforcement, however, is uneven.

“As for other drugs and narcotics, the 1990 law imposes a complete prohibition of use, production and trade, with the exception of medical purposes. Drug users and dealers are generally shunned by society.” Sometimes they are harshly punished. “According to a report in the newspaper Dhaka Tribune, 35 percent of inmates are in prison because of drug offences in Bangladesh. This ratio shows that the situation is serious indeed. Unfortunately, the government is mostly focusing on the enforcement of criminal law, neglecting the social dimensions of the endemic narcotics problem. There are, however, 184 rehabilitation centres across the country. Considering the need, they are too few and too poorly resourced.

“In spite of the prohibitive law, drug problems are escalating. A new drug called yaba (a mixture of caffeine and methamphetamine) is imported from neighbouring Myanmar. In the context of the recent influx of Rohingya refugees, yaba trafficking has increased. Observers say that yaba is now the most popular drug in Bangladesh, but it is not yet on the list of prohibited substances under the 1990 Act.” As of the mid 2010s and methamphetamines were not illegal in Bangladesh. “In October 2018, however, the national parliament passed a new law which foresees the death penalty for anyone found carrying 200 grammes of yaba or 25 grammes of heroin or cocaine.

“It is noteworthy that law enforcement is biased against the poor. The better-off in Bangladesh are frequently alcohol consumers. Their habits are illegal but are generally not prosecuted. By contrast, the users and dealers of cannabis, yaba and domestically produced booze tend to be poor. They are at considerable risk of being charged, tried or even killed.

Drug Abuse in Bangladesh

In 2013, the Daily Star reported: “According to sources at different healthcare facilities, nowadays nearly 10 percent of outpatients are visiting the country's hospitals with cases of addiction-related complications involving heroin, marijuana and Phensedyl [cough syrup]. The trend of drug consumption is higher in youth and teenagers, their age spanning between 15 and 30 years. They come from all strata of the society. The average age of the drug addicts is 22. Students are mostly falling victims to drug abuse. [Source: Daily Star, August 14, 2013]

“There are a number of reasons why a teenager might try drugs. Peer pressure is one of the leading causes. Reasons determined through research include curiosity and excitement through its use, despair and frustration for continuous failure in works or economic insolvency. Some get addicted because they try to follow the western culture of drug abuse and enjoyment of life. A number of other reasons include poverty, easy access to drugs, dejection in love, and mental stress due to family problems.

“There are three types of drugs available in Bangladesh — opium, cannabis (ganja), and sleeping pills (seduxen). The most common drugs used in Bangladesh are stimulants. The teens are ignorant about variation of drugs. Some of them cannot tell the difference between stimulants and marijuana. There are a large number of young using drugs.

“According to police, "In the last two or three years, many more teens have been arrested for using drugs than ever before." Though it is not possible to find out the exact number of the drug users in the country, on the basis of different data and statistics, it is estimated that the number of addicts in Bangladesh is more than six million who spend over Tk 70 million every day on illegal narcotics, say studies and intelligence reports.

“According to a WHO survey, most drug users are young, their age ranging from 18 to 30 years. Meanwhile, a separate study conducted by the Journal of Health, Population and Nutrition (JHPN) of the International Center for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR,B) shows that in the capital, 79.4 percent of the users are male and 20.6 percent are female. The JHPN study finds that 64.8 percent of the drug users in the country are unmarried, 56.1 percent are either students or unemployed, and 95.4 percent are smokers. About 85.7 percent get into consuming drugs under the influence of friends, while 65.8 percent get addicted to various codeine-laced cough syrups.

“More than 1 lakh people are directly involved in illegal drug trade and supply. The study reveals that peddlers prefer women and children for carrying and selling drugs because it is easier for them to evade law enforcers. According to intelligence sources at the Department of Narcotics Control (DNC), heroin is the deadliest of drugs in Bangladesh. In recent times, Yaba has gained popularity and has become a "fashionable" drug. Cough syrup Phensedyl remains the most popular among the masses because of its low price and easy availability.

“Sources at the DNC intelligence wing also said that around 10,000 cases are filed and 9,000 people are arrested every year in connection with drug-related violence and crimes.

“Physicians say weaning someone off drug addiction is difficult, but not impossible. Support from family and friends, professional help from doctors, and will power of the patient during inpatient or outpatient drug addiction treatment may help to end dependence on drugs.

Bangladesh Has 7 Million Addicts, Mostly Addicted to Meth, Government Says

In 2018, the Bangladesh government said there were at least 7 million drug addicts in Bangladesh, with 5 million of them addicted to methamphetamine (meth, ice), known as yaba in Bangladesh. Liton Haider of, wrote: “The government has no statistics on the drug addicts, but the Department of Narcotics Control Director General Md Jamal Uddin Ahmed supports the statistics of the non-government organizations working on eliminating drugs. "The department does not have its own statistics,” Jamal Uddin said, “But according to those who work on these issues, the number of drug addicts is about 7 million. The department supported the statistics." [Source: Liton Haider,, May 21, 2018]

Reuters reported: “Drugs have long been a concern for the Bangladesh government, which bans consumption of alcohol by Muslims, who make up the vast majority of the population. But it’s not clear how much drug use has grown or even how many people use drugs. Asked for figures, Bangladesh’s narcotics deputy intelligence chief said there were none. “We have no government statistics or non-government statistics about users,” Nazrul Islam Sikder said, adding: “But we guess 7 to 8 million.” Drug seizures data from the Department of Narcotics Control suggests the drug trade has grown, but much of the increase happened three years ago, long before Hasina launched the crackdown. The data shows a dramatic increase in methamphetamine or “yaba” pill seizures beginning in 2015. [Source: Clare Baldwin, Ruma Paul, Reuters, August 13, 2018]

Jonathon Gatehouse wrote for CBC News: “Areas close to the border with Myanmar” are “the source of much of South East Asia's illicit drugs. Heroin, opium, and pot are all produced in its hard-to-reach outlying states, often under the watchful eye of rebel groups or the military. But meth — or yaba as it is known locally — has become Myanmar's biggest export. In 2015, police in Bangladesh seized 50 million pills. The following year their haul was 98 million. Still, it hardly makes a dent. Authorities estimate that 300 million pills crossed the border last year. And the trade isn't just a problem in Bangladesh....Customs officials in Malaysia discovered nearly 1.2 tonnes of crystal meth disguised as tea in a container at Kuala Lumpur's port. The shipment, valued at $20 million US, had originated in Myanmar. Authorities in Bangladesh have frequently blamed the influx of Rohingya for both the increased availability of meth and its soaring use. They cite the drug problem as a justification for a controversial plan to establish a new refugee camp on an isolated island in Bay of Bengal. [Source: Jonathon Gatehouse · CBC News, June 1, 2018]

Bangladesh’s War on Drugs

In May 2018, the Bangladesh government launched a Duterte-Philippines-style war on drugs that left several hundred dead, many under dubious circumstances. Reuters reported: “Bangladesh is the newest frontline in state-backed drug crackdowns in Asia” and “more than 200 people” have been “shot dead by police in Bangladesh since May, when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced the campaign. [Source: Clare Baldwin, Ruma Paul, Reuters, August 13, 2018]

“Critics say the crackdown reflects Hasina’s increasingly authoritarian rule ahead of a general election” a few months after the campign was launched. “That was also shown in its response to recent student demonstrations over road traffic deaths, including the use of rubber bullets and the arrest of a prominent photographer. Hasina emphasized that the police and intelligence agencies would now tackle the drug problem in the same tough way they had countered violent extremism in recent years. Such campaigns can be popular with voters as has been shown by President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody drug war in the Philippines.

“Critics of Hasina say the crackdown is meant to show voters she is responding to popular concerns and to strike fear in political opponents ahead of the election. According to media reports, some of those killed were activists of the opposition Bangladesh National Party. For Ashrafuzzaman Zaman, liaison officer of the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission, the politics of the drug crackdown are clear. “You kill 200 people and you make 150 million afraid: today or tomorrow you can also be one of them. That is the message the government is giving to the people,” he said. But Home Minister Khan denied the campaign was a cover to target opposition politicians, and said no drug offender is treated differently from another. “His identity is only as a criminal,” he said. “Even if he has a link with the ruling party, he will not be spared.”

Shortly after the war on drugs campaign was launched, Liton Haider wrote in “Detective police, railway police, police stations and Border Guard Bangladesh have also been seen in the anti-drug operations even though nothing has been announced officially. Over the last several days after the so-called ‘gunfight’ with police in several districts, some members of the drug cartels have been killed. Six people were killed in the as many districts on Saturday night and four of them were said to be drug peddlers. Earlier, two people were killed in a RAB operation in Barishal colony, known as the den of Chattogram's illegal drugs. Nine people were killed in the last five days in an alleged gunfight with the RAB in Barishal, Rajshahi, Chapainawabganj. RAB claimed that all the dead were drug peddlers. From Sunday noon, RAB has started distributing leaflets to create public awareness with th slogan “Let's go to war against the illegal drugs.” [Source: Liton Haider,, May 21, 2018]

People Killed in Bangladesh’s War on Drugs

Reuters reported: “The bodies appeared rapidly after Hasina’s pronouncement. And, just like the Philippines, the killings appeared to follow a script: suspects died in “gunfights”, typically at night, and weapons and drugs were found nearby. In more than a third of the 211 killings recorded by Dhaka-based human rights group Odhikar since mid-May, the suspects were arrested before they were killed. [Source: Clare Baldwin, Ruma Paul, Reuters, August 13, 2018]

Jonathon Gatehouse of CBC News wrote at the end of May: “The national crackdown has seen 9,000 people arrested and at least 127 shot dead over the past 17 days. The sweeps, led by the police Rapid Action Battalion — normally an anti-terrorism squad — have seized 1.7 million methamphetamine pills and 23 kilograms of heroin to date, according to the country's home ministry. But human rights groups are expressing concern over the large number of suspected dealers and users who are dying in what police say are almost daily gun battles. Today, the Bangladesh Daily Star reported five more killings by police overnight. In most of the cases, police reported that "rival groups" of drug dealers were attacking each other, drawing officers to the area. “Sensing the presence of police, drug dealers opened fire on law enforcers," says one official account. And a raid of a slum in the capital of Dhaka, involving 500 officers and several police dogs, resulted in the arrest of 28 suspects and the seizure of three kilograms of cannabis, along with smaller amounts of methamphetamine, heroin and Demerol. [Source:Jonathon Gatehouse · CBC News, June 1, 2018]

According to Reuters: “Most of the killings took place in May, when there were 129 as the campaign began, but then dropped to 38 in June before picking up to 44 in July. The police are overseen by Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan, who denied the police were executing suspects. “Our law enforcement people don’t kill, they don’t execute anyone. It is impossible. If they do so they will be fired at that moment,” he told Reuters. “It is not a lawless country.” The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, U.S. ambassador to Bangladesh and the European Union have all expressed concern about the killings of drug suspects in Bangladesh.

“After a government official in the southern city of Teknaf was gunned down by Rapid Action Battalion police in May, the state-funded National Human Rights Commission sent a letter to the ministry in charge of the police to remind it of human rights. But Hasina pressed on. “Drugs destroy a country, a nation and a family,” she told parliament in June. “We will continue the drive, no matter who says what.”“

Abuses in Bangladesh’s War on Drugs

Clare Baldwin and Ruma Paul of Reuters wrote: “ Bangladesh police arrested Riazul Islam as he was walking home from his in-laws’ house. At 3:15 a.m., he was shot dead in a sandy field beside a set of railroad tracks north of Dhaka. Police say he was killed in a gunfight with other drug dealers, and they recovered 20 kg of marijuana from the site. His parents say the officers extorted money from them and then killed him. “I knew my son was in police custody. All of a sudden my son was dead. I couldn’t believe it. The police took money and they still killed him,” said his mother, Rina Begum. [Source: Clare Baldwin, Ruma Paul, Reuters, August 13, 2018]

“After Islam was arrested, according to the police report, officers took the “top terror” of the neighborhood to the field beside the railroad tracks to draw in and arrest other drug dealers. The other dealers “sensed” the officers’ presence and began firing randomly, and “to save life and government property”, the officers fired back. “Roni [Islam] was shot and fell down. He died on the spot,” according to the report, which said two officers were wounded.

“Islam’s autopsy report, read to Reuters by a hospital official, noted that a single bullet entered his head near his left ear and exited near his right. Each of the two officers were treated for small areas of tenderness and swelling on one of their hands, according to records at another hospital. Kamal Hossain, the officer in charge of the operation, said drug use leads to crime and arrests don’t work. “They come out on bail and they do the same thing, selling and using drugs,” he said. “Every drug dealer should be killed. Then drugs can be controlled.”

“None of the six witnesses in the police report saw Islam die, they told Reuters. One of the six, handyman Mohammad Bappy, who lives at the edge of the field where Islam was shot, snapped photos of Islam’s dead body. One of the pictures shows blood on the ground beneath Islam’s head. “There was no gun,” he said. “If there had been a gunfight we would have heard lots of firing from two sides. That didn’t happen.”

“No one believes the official accounts of the killings, said Rashid Alam, a 50-year-old manager of a garment factory near the field where Islam was shot, but he is more concerned about the scourge of drugs use for communities. “We understand he is a drug dealer and the police shot him,” he said. “That kind of death is okay. Good job, really.”

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Bangladesh Tourism Board, Bangladesh National Portal (, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Wikipedia and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated February 2022

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