Biman overlooking intel inputs for VVIP flights

Chowdhury Akbor Hossain
Published : 23:50, May 29, 2019 | Updated : 00:26, May 30, 2019

PHOTO/Biman Bangladesh AirlinesBiman Bangladesh Airlines has on several occasions ignored directions from intelligence agencies when it came to VVIP flight operations.
Recently, the state owned airlines appointed an acting managing director, who has several times made it to the list of people not allowed in the prime minister’s vicinity, to accompany her during her flight to three countries as part of the standing operating procedure (SOP).
Even though Atik Sobhan was not allowed to board the flight, the point remains that Biman acting Managing Director and CEO Farhat Hossain Jamil selected him for the job despite his less than impressive records.
In fact not only was he not allowed to board the flight, he was also forbidden from entering the airport on that day.
The SOP calls for the managing director himself to accompany the prime minister, president and other VVIPs during their official visits overseas.
However, if he cannot for some reason make it, he has to select a representative of his, usually someone of director rank, to carry out the job.
They, like the crew and the rest of the entourage must be cleared by the intelligence agencies first.
Atik Sobhan is currently serving as the acting director of Biman’s Customer Service Department even though his name is in the intelligence agencies’ list.
According to sources he was the director general of airport services back in 2014 when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited Nepal for the SAARC summit.
Even back then the intelligence agencies wrote to the Biman managing director saying that Sobhan wasn’t cleared to be present at the VVIP program venues and recommended steps to be taken accordingly.
Moreover, the agencies had asked the airline authorities to ensure that he along with five others didn’t have anything to with the PM’s flight operations during her Germany visit.
Similar instructions were issued in regard to Sobhan during the PM’s official visit to Indonesia.
There are allegations of negligence of duty and graft against Atik Sobhan, according to sources.
He was posted as the deputy director general of Biman’s Storage and Purchase Department back in 2008. He was found guilty of irregularities during purchase of food items for Biman Flight Catering Centre (BFCC).
In 1998 he was left off with a warning after it was proved that he had leaked questions for a training exam when he was serving as the deputy chief trainer at the Customer Service.
Biman authorities, however, had no answer as to why acting Sobhan was selected for the job despite the intelligence agencies’ reservations with him and maintains that they take security of VVIP flights with utmost seriousness.
Civil Aviation and Tourism Secretary Md Mohibul Hoque said that clearance from the intelligence agencies is standard protocol for individuals in a VVIP flight.
“The same person has to receive clearance every time they board the flight,” he said.
He added that Sobhan had received clearance from one of the intelligence agencies but not from the others.