REORGANISED AIRPORT SECURITY : Air force officials to deploy on policing duty

Muktadir Rashid

The Civil Aviation Authority, Bangladesh is deploying air force along with Ansar battalion at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport from Sunday.
The authority, traditionally led by serving air force officials on deputation, said the international airport’s director would lead the airport security force, a special security unit instituted to supervise the security at the gates, scanners, archways and explosive detection, among others.
Authority officials said that 40 members each from air force — six flight lieutenants and 34 other rankers — and police –– six assistant police superintendents and 34 others rankers — would join the composite unit along with 20 members of Ansar Battalion — an assistant director and 19 other rankers.
‘We have completed the training of personnel from air force and Ansar. They will be deployed from Sunday. But, the member from police had not joined the training violating the instructions from the Prime Minister’s Office,’ Hazrat Shahjalal airport director Group Captain MK Zakir Hassan said.
Police headquarters officials said that they were unwilling to deploy cops under the joint force fearing that such initiative might trigger serious misunderstanding inside the team over leadership.
They, however, said that they wanted the government to employ more civil officials for the airport security instead of deploying air force members in the name of composite security unit.
‘We have psychological difference with air force officials having military training. And, we are reeling from effect of previous experience we had working with other joint forces,’ said Armed Police Battalion commanding officer at airport Rashidul Islam Khan.
Officials of the battalion, which has been deployed at the airport since 2010, said that they had a crisis response team of 40 armed people trained by the United States’ counter terrorism agency while more than 300 other personnel were given aviation security training.
British transport department report, released few weeks ago, stated that civil aviation authority chairman and his senior security advisers shared that the current authority planned to setup a bespoke Aviation Security Division with the help of the air force.
‘This is not an air force take over but is tended to instil basic training and discipline before recruits graduate to aviation security training and duties,’ the report read.
The authority already restricted movement of outsiders in and around the airport and asked passengers to show valid printed ticket and passport or national identity card or photo identity card while entering the airport.
The United Kingdom aviation safety agency visited Dhaka airport on November 11, 2015 and December 15, 2015 to check the security measures taken by the airport authority.
After the trip, the UK report termed the security of the airport extremely flimsy and said that there was no skilled manpower to operate the scanning machines. The scanning machines were also faulty.
The prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, recently said that the government was working on improving security arrangement at the airports, announcing that more equipment would be purchased to this end.
‘We have already paid attention to security improvement [of airports]…We held meetings to this end. New equipment will be purchased,’ she told a function organised by Biman Bangladesh Airlines.
The UK delegation which visited once again in January, however, expressed satisfaction over the latest security arrangement.
Over 4 million international and 1 million domestic passengers as well as 150,000 tons of freight and mail exchange use the airport every year. The airport is well equipped with terminal buildings, hangers, sophisticated radar, a freight village (warehouse) and other modern equipment for handling aircraft, officials said.