Finally, someone has asked the crucial question – why alcohol is qualified as narcotics in Bangladesh.
This same point was ruled in private conversations for long but at last the High Court has asked the secretaries to the law, home and finance ministries to explain the logic behind such labelling.
If alcohol is indeed narcotics, then Bangladesh is the world's largest importer of narcotics. This certainly does not bode well for our image.
There cannot be any logical or scientific reasons forthcoming with the questioning. But there can be other answers, unpalatable as they may be.
But let us first look at the difference between narcotics and alcohol. The use of alcohol has been in place for thousands of years, the earliest trace of it found in Levant what is now known as the areas around Palestine. It is not uncorrelated that it was also from there humans first started agriculture. Alcohol needs malt and naturally so in the Middle East those early cultivators who had settled down from nomadic life tried their hands at brewing beer. All other following civilisations are known to have practised the use and consumption of alcohol.
It is now the most acceptable social drink, showing on dinner tables of powerful and respectable men, women around the world. Except for many Islamic countries, alcohol is legal.
A product that can be equated with narcotics cannot be so widely used by so many wise men and women.
Alcohol is neither banned nor unavailable in Bangladesh. It has a peculiar and hypocritical law that says a person has to procure in exchange for a fee a licence signed by a doctor who falsely vows that the holder of the licence needs to drink seven units of alcohol a month for health reasons. This cannot be anything further from the truth. A person can never need alcohol for health reasons. Every drop of alcohol is poison. It affects your heart, kidney, liver, serial organs and of course brain among other things. Only an alcoholic can consume seven units of alcohol a month.
So this is a government mandated lie that the citizens are forced to vouch to drink a substance that is perfectly okay to drink freely around the world.
Not that it is not freely consumed here as well. I have met many people of high standing from all professions who I have seen drinking copiously in sound state. But everything under a hypocritical veil of righteous hush-hush that defies any logic.
So, why then is this "licence" thing and labelling alcohol as narcotics? It is easy to use this tool to implicate somebody in a case and throw them in jail. We have seen this happen many times in the past and also in recent days – the case of Porimoni being a much discussed happening. It has become a tool to harass people.
Secondly, it has become a tool to extort money. I know people carrying alcohol who have been stopped by law enforcers and then let go after exchange of money.
So, finally, the High Court has come up with the most basic question of alcohol being treated as narcotics. This is not just a simple question of alcohol consumption but the most fundamental question of morality and ethics.
Inam Ahmed is the Editor of The Business Standard.