Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
Taliban has started taking over Afghanistan since the American troops are withdrawing from the country.
With American soldiers being withdrawn from Afghanistan, the international jihadist group is taking fresh preparations for increasing its activities inside Afghanistan and beyond, while Pakistani spy agency Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) is looking for using Al Qaeda as an effective vessel for spreading terrorist activities inside India and other South Asian nations.
According to information, ISI has established links between Al Qaeda’s South Asian chapter, Al Qaeda in Indian Subcontinent or AQIS, and Rohingya jihadist outfit Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), while the Pakistani spy agency is also helping ARSA in getting linked to few more regional jihadist and separatist groups. It may be mentioned here that ARSA has already established its dominance in the illegal trade of Yaba pills, which would be one of its major sources of earnings.
Yaba (meaning 'crazy drug'), formerly known as Yama (meaning ‘horse drug'), are tablets containing a mixture of methamphetamine and caffeine. The illicit use of this drug combination has been widespread, particularly in South, Southeast Asian countries, and Saudi Arabia.
With the help of Pakistani ISI, Rohingya militancy group ARSA has now become one of the stakeholders in illegal Yaba trade by joining the existing syndicate of Hezbollah, Hamas, and notorious terror don Dawood Ibrahim’s D Company.
According to information, the Nayapara Rohingya refugee camp in Teknaf, which is positioned on the banks of the Naaf River, is both the international border between Bangladesh and Myanmar and the busiest drug route of the region. Hundreds and thousands of Yaba pills are being moved to various destinations via the Nayapara Rohingya camp route. These Yaba dealing rackets inside ARSA and Rohingya refugees have established connections inside the Bangladeshi law enforcement agencies, which would in advance alert them about any secret operation from the Bangladesh side.
In February 2018, undercover officers of the Bangladesh Coast Guard under the command of Lt. Commander Faizul Islam went to Nayapara Rohingya refugee camp in Teknaf, posing as buyers to arrest Mohammed Sadique, a Rohingya ring-leader of the Nayapara cartel. But, Rohingya Mohammed Sadique was already informed of the operation and, as a result, several people jumped the coast guard team, attacking with sharp weapons and taking away their cash. The incident resulted in two officers receiving grievous knife wounds.
Until the early 1990s, Myanmar’s largest narcotic export to Bangladesh was opioids, mainly heroin. But heroin was phased out in favor of methamphetamine and its derivatives. By the late 1990s, Myanmar began moving away from opioid production to methamphetamine. It just made better business sense.
Fluctuations in global opium crop prices, international drug policies, and conflicts regularly affected opioid production. Yaba is a synthetic cocktail of caffeine and low-grade methamphetamine flavored with vanilla and colored bright red. The production process is stable and results in a steady distribution line and controlled prices. The best of the meth stock was shipped to Thailand, where Yaba became the go-to party drug. The inferior stock made its way to Bangladesh.
Several high-ranking officials of the Myanmar army own a stake in the Yaba factories, while the production directly goes to international and regional cartels, including Dawood Ibrahim’s D Company, Lebanese Hezbollah, and lately Hamas and ARSA. While the Myanmar junta plays a dilly dally with the repatriation of the stranded Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh, India, and other countries, few of its influential officials are involved in Yaba trade with most of the militancy groups, including drug cartels and even Rohingya militancy group, ARSA.
As ARSA has emerged as one of the major beneficiaries of Yaba trade, its forming nexus with Al Qaeda in Indian Subcontinent, Hezbollah, Hamas, Lashkar-e-Toiba, and Pakistani spy agency ISI would ultimately turn this Rohingya jihadist group into a major threat to regional and international security.
While Bangladesh has been showing huge sympathy to over one million Rohingya refugees for years, it is now essential for Bangladesh authorities, including the law enforcement and intelligence agencies to bring Rohingyas under much closer surveillance, while combat Yaba cartels within the Rohingya community and ARSA with an iron hand. Similarly, Indian authorities should also bring the illegal Rohingyas in that country under the radar and stop them from turning into a major threat to national security.
The author is an internationally known multi-award-winning anti-militancy journalist, research scholar, counterterrorism specialist, and editor of Weekly Blitz. He can be reached via Twitter @Salah_Shoaib