By Nazmul Ahasan / Foreign Policy

At midnight on May 26, 2018, Ekramul Haque’s daughters were trying to reach their father, who had left home three hours earlier and had still not returned.

Haque was an elected council member in Cox’s Bazar’s Teknaf municipality, a southeastern Bangladeshi town bordering Myanmar. To the outside world, Teknaf and surrounding subdistricts in Cox’s Bazar are best known for hosting nearly a million Rohingya refugees, but domestically, it is also a major entry point for narcotics (mostly yaba—a combination of methamphetamine and caffeine) sourced from Myanmar.

When Haque’s daughters reached him, he was audibly distressed, but he was also trying to comfort them. “Abbu [dad], you seem to be crying,” one of his confused daughters said. Unsettled, they alerted their mother, Ayesha Begum, who joined in subsequent calls.

Haque was at that time in the custody of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), an elite Bangladeshi police unit estimated to have killed more than 1,100 people between 2004 and 2020. He would soon be executed, joining hundreds of others killed by authorities in a bloody election-year anti-drug campaign. After his death, the RAB produced a typical press release, claiming that Haque had been killed in a supposed gunfight during a drug raid.