Selling of small arms shoots up at alarming level
Recently countrywide selling of small arms has rapidly shot up. The increased selling also indicates of growing insecurity among citizens. The sale of illicit arms, mostly imported from a neighbouring country has been a profitable trade paying huge dividends to those involved in arms smuggling for decades. The estimated number of guns, licit and illicit, held by civilians in the country stands at a staggering 660, 000.
Particularly, the country's northwestern border in Chapainawabganj has emerged as a major route for arms smuggling. Of late, it has become militants' most preferred point for collecting illegal firearms and explosives. This is the route through which the terror outfit Neo JMB smuggled in the guns and bombs used in 2016's Gulshan café attack.
More to it, law enforcers have detected the involvement of a section of legal arms dealers' involvement in the racket, turning law enforcement a complex issue.
According to Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) police unit sources criminal syndicates have brought in some 200 firearms in the last two years and sold in the grey market after barcodes were removed to make these untraceable.
Regardless of the protestations by the Legal Arms Dealers' Association, CTTC officials have stated that they believe a section of dealers are under the radar and some have been arrested.
The implications of sale of small arms to criminals and political goons using the cover of legal arms sales are not lost on anyone. Not only is it a threat to maintaining law and order, but easy availability of lethal firearms gives rise to crimes like murder and terrorism.
The other point to remember is that those involved in the narcotics trade are heavily dependent on procuring these illegal arms to settle scores and if transnational gangs continue to use 10 border points to bring in firearms into Bangladesh, we can expect to see growing violence where criminals may well be equally armed as law enforcers.
At a time when the country is experiencing relative peace, policymakers and law enforcers must collaborate with their counterparts across international borders to put a stop to this dangerous trade.
Simultaneously, the cases and charge sheets submitted against suspects in custody must be thoroughly investigated and convictions made at the earliest. Law enforcement authorities must display a zero-tolerance policy towards trading of illegal small arms. Finally, it is time to initiate major drives to recover all illegally held weapons of all types.