PM may write to Cameron for lifting air cargo ban

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is expected to write back shortly to her British counterpart David Cameron and request him to withdraw the ban on direct air cargo from Dhaka to London.

The UK has imposed the ban, saying Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport failed to meet some international security requirements.

In a letter to Hasina on Tuesday, Cameron called for a visible improvement of airport security by March 31 to avoid further measures like banning of direct Biman flights from Dhaka to London.

Highly placed sources said the civil aviation ministry has already started preparing a reply to the British PM's letter to assure him of massive changes in regard to security of the airport in the next three weeks.

Hasina may also seek extension of time for implementation of a comprehensive work plan for achieving visible improvement.

The sources said the prime minister in the letter to her British counterpart will elaborate on already implemented measures to improve the security.

It will also highlight ongoing projects regarding recruitment of skilled manpower, improved training and purchase of scanning and other sophisticated equipment to ensure complete security in line with the international standards.

There will be a detailed description about the government work plan to improve security and all the other aspects including immigration, customs and cargo handling.

Diplomatic sources said Hasina will mention her government's “zero tolerance” policy on terrorism and the achievements in recent years in curbing religious extremism and militancy.

Talking to The Daily Star yesterday, an official of the civil aviation ministry said the government has taken up a well-articulated plan and all are working relentlessly to implement it in the next three weeks.

A foreign team that visited Bangladesh has appreciated the security improvement but noticed some human errors like an on-duty official went for smoking or fell asleep on the desk, he said.

“We are confident of overcoming those minor gaps soon,” he said, adding that a British team will visit Bangladesh from March 13 to see the improvement. “We will show them the improvement and discuss the remaining tasks to be done in the next three weeks.”

Meanwhile, US Ambassador in Dhaka Marcia Bernicat yesterday met Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque and discussed a wide range of issues. But the airport security came up prominently.

She also discussed the visit of two US teams later this month -- Homeland Security team and cyber security expert team.

The teams will hold extensive meetings with high government and security officials, including the foreign secretary.

Dhaka has welcomed the planned visit of the two US teams.

Alan Bersin, US assistant secretary for international affairs and Chief diplomatic officer for the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Policy, will visit Bangladesh towards the end of this month.

The cyber security expert team of the US State Department will arrive on a two-day visit on March 22-23. It will be led by Tom Dukes, deputy coordinator for Cyber Issues at the US State Department.

Foreign ministry sources said several other US teams will visit Bangladesh next month.


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