From now on, foreign missions, embassies and agencies in Dhaka can avail Ansar escort for their vehicular movement if they deem it necessary. The government has finalised the policy to this end and if a mission wants additional security, it will have to spend USD 300 USD or Tk 32,000 per trained Ansar member.
According to the policy, foreign missions can also hire vehicles from the Ansar Battalion for security purposes for USD 100 or Tk 107,000 a month, with the respective foreign mission or agency bearing the fuel cost.
The foreign ministry informed various missions of the matter through a note verbale on 18 May and requested them to contact the Ansar and VDP (Village Defence Party) director (operations) to avail additional security.
The note verbale further stated the government of Bangladesh has been taking all kinds of measures to ensure the protection of and security to diplomats, consulor missions and their representatives in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961 and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations 1963.
Speaking to Prohtom Alo on Tuesday, home minister Asaduzzaman Khan said, “Our Ansar regiment guard is very smart and competent and are trained. If diplomats for any foreign country think they need additional security, they can avail Ansar escort for a fee. The embassies or missions have to bear the cost.”
Replying to a query whether any foreign embassy has sought additional escort yet, the home minister said no country has sought it formally as yet. However, a country from Middle East verbally informed that they are interested in Ansar escort.
On 15 May, the government all of a sudden announced that it has withdrawn the additional police escort to the diplomats from four countries –USA, UK, India and Japan, leaving diplomats stationed in Dhaka surprised. Diplomats from several missions have already informed the government about their frustration over the decision on that day.
On 16 May, the foreign ministry said in a press release that diplomats from several countries enjoyed additional security to assist their traffic movement following an incident happened several years ago. At present, law and order situation is better in Bangladesh, so, there is no necessity of providing additional security. Besides, this additional facility can’t be maintained any more since the operation of the police force has expanded.
The ministry also noticed recently that there has been a trend among foreign embassies seeking such escort and, for that, the home ministry has set up a smart team in the Ansar force to provide this facility to all. Foreign diplomats can enjoy this escort at their own expense, according the foreign ministry press release.
According to police sources, the government had been maintaining additional security to foreign diplomats after the militant attack on Holey Artisan Bakery in 2016. Besides, additional security was provided to the then UK envoy in Dhaka Anwar Choudhury since he came under a grenade attack in Sylhet in May 2004. His successors, however, had been enjoying this privilege.
According to the Vienna Convention, any host country is obliged to ensure protection to all foreign missions and their personnel and take proper measures to prevent any attack.
Prothom Alo contacted officials of three foreign diplomatic missions in Dhaka over the government proposal on availing Ansar escort to diplomats in return of money. They declined comment.
Regarding this decision of the government, former foreign secretary Md Touhid Hossain told Prothom Alo that diplomats should be provided with police escort for vehicular movement because police is involved in traffic management not the Ansars. Besides, Ansars are not trained in traffic situation control or road management.
“We all know very well that which countries are at risk of security and which countries require security, and diplomats from those countries must be provided with additional escort. Countries facing no risk need no security. It does not seem logical that they will be charged for additional security or the government will earn significant from this,” he added.