Dhaka: Bangladesh plans to raise an elite police unit for protection of VVIPs, including the president, prime minister and visiting foreign heads of state, along side the Special Security Force (SSF), which is currently solely responsible to carry out the task, officials said on Sunday.
"We have forwarded a police headquarters proposal for raising the specialised unit to the Prime Minister`s office," a senior Home Ministry official said, adding the proposal was prepared in line with a government directive.
He said the proposed unit, which is to be called `Bureau of Crisis Response and Protection (BCRS)` would also provide security to visiting foreign heads of state and government and any person designated as very important person by the government.
Officials familiar with the development said Premier Sheikh Hasina earlier on two occasions told senior police officials about the plan to raise the unit with strength of over 32,000 specially trained and equipped policemen in next three years.
They said the police headquarters proposed 3,730 posts for the unit to be headed by an officer of the rank of Inspector General of Police (IGP), who will be assisted by two additional Inspectors General, two Deputy Inspectors General, seven Additional Deputy Inspectors General and 14 Police Superintendent-level officers. Currently, the elite Special Security Force (SSF) is solely responsible for the VVIP protection. Raised in 1997 as the successor to the Presidential Security Force (PSF), SSF is manned by specially-trained officers from Army, Navy, Air Force and Police and works in collaboration with traditional President Guard Regiment (PGR).
SSF takes necessary measures in coordination with civil administration, security and intelligence organisations to protect VIPs from any threat at any place, including their residences.
But a police official familiar with the situation said SSF needed the police support for "middle and outer circles" of the country`s two top VVIPs, the President and Premier, as with their limited number of officials they could directly guard inner circles within a close proximity only.
"The route protection of the VVIPs and VIPs under the existing system is very difficult particularly as they go outside the capital by road when the ordinary district police units struggle to familiarise with the security arrangements and follow or escort them with their old vehicles," Hassan-ul -Haider, an Assistant Inspector General (AIG) of the police headquarters said.
He said district policemen also are tasked with the job of ground sweeping and controlling people in VVIPs` public meetings along side gathering intelligence about their exposure to terrorist attacks or subversive activities of criminal gangs.
Another senior officer claimed that with their limited resources, police needed to shoulder the major chunk of responsibilities of VVIP security and the situation demanded the development of a specialised unit for the job.
Bangladesh`s founder and Prime Minister Hasina`s father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was killed along with most of his family members in a military putsch on August 15, 1975.
President Ziaur Rahman, a General who eventually appeared as the strongman of Bangladesh after several coups and counter-coups after the August 15 carnage, too was killed in an abortive coup on May 31, 1981.
The lack of adequate security was largely blamed for the assassinations of the two leaders, prompting authorities to develop special protection units in subsequent years.
Bangladesh`s Cabinet recently approved a draft law to ensure lifetime security for the surviving family members of Sheikh Mujib -- Hasina and her sister Sheikh Rehana who survived the August 15 coup as they were abroad at that time.
Hasina narrowly survived a militant attack in 2004 when 24 people were killed and some 400 others injured in front of the party`s central office at downtown Dhaka`s Bangabandhu
Avenue as assailants belonging to Harkatul Jihad (HuJI) hurled 13 grenades when she was addressing a rally.
Security officials said in neighbouring India the elite Special Protection Group (SPG) is the executive protection agency of VVIPs while the 3,000 personnel unit draws recruitment from police as well as National Security Guards commandos, also known as black cats.