Resolve Hajj visa-related complexities in 48 hrs: HC

Dhaka,  Mon,  21 August 2017
Published : 14 Aug 2017, 00:00:24 | Updated : 14 Aug 2017, 00:03:27
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Resolve Hajj visa-related complexities in 48 hrs: HC

Biman cancels eight flights to carry pilgrims
The High Court (HC) ordered the authorities concerned on Sunday to take steps to resolve the complexities relating to sending Hajj pilgrims to Saudi Arabia within 48 hours, reports UNB.

An HC bench comprising Justice Syed Muhammad Dastagir Husain and Justice Md Ataur Rahman Khan passed the order.

The court also ordered sending those intending pilgrims, who are yet to reach Saudi Arabia for performing Hajj, by hiring private aircraft, if needed.

HC issued a rule asking the authorities concerned to explain as to why a probe commission would not be formed to identify the people behind the Hajj mismanagement.

Besides, the court issued another rule to explain why the government's inaction in Hajj management would not be declared illegal and unlawful.

HC also issued a rule asking the authorities concerned to explain why legal actions would not be taken against the people behind the mismanagement.

Five government officials, including the secretaries of Ministry of Religious Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism, have been asked to respond to the rule within four weeks.

HC lawyer Advocate Manzill Murshid filed the public interest litigation writ petition, seeking its order to form a probe-body to find out the reasons behind the mismanagement of Hajj flights operated by Biman Bangladesh Airlines.

So far, around 5,000 pilgrims have failed to fly to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj this year following cancellations of 21 Hajj flights of Bangladesh Biman due to shortage of passengers triggered by visa complexities.

Meanwhile, Biman has suspended operation of some of its international flights to overcome the prevailing deadlock over carrying hajj pilgrims, making changes in its schedule for the regular flights until August 26, according to a FE Report.

Still Biman suffers a capacity shortage of 4,000 passengers, said Biman officials.

Although Ministry of Religious Affairs asked the Hajj agencies to submit all the passports for visa processing at Ashkona Hajj Camp by Sunday, the agencies failed to submit 20,000 passports until the deadline.

The last date of submitting passports to Saudi Embassy in Dhaka is Thursday, which might create uncertainty in receiving visa for these pilgrims.

Biman and Saudi Airlines were bound either to cancel or delay 27 flights from July 24 to August 13.  

Biman general manager (public relations) Shakil Meraj said BG9029, which was supposed to depart at 2:05 pm on Sunday was delayed for 48 hours. A total of two flights of the new 14 slots were delayed since Saturday. On Saturday, BG9027 was delayed.

"We have cancelled five flights on Dhaka-Doha route until next August 26, and reduced one weekly flights from four to three on Dhaka-London route until October 04 to increase availability of aircrafts to carry the Hajj pilgrims," he said.

Besides, Biman has decided to withdraw all its high-capacity Boeing 777 aircrafts and use comparatively low-capacity Boeing 737 aircrafts on Dhaka-Muscat, Dhaka-Dubai and Dhaka-Kuala Lumpur routes. These will be used as dedicated Hajj flights, he added.

Mr Shakil also said Biman has applied for eight new slots to Saudi General Authority of Civil Aviation. The authority has given the responsibility of slot application processing to an Australian company.

"Sunday is weekend in Australia. We expect to receive response from the Australian company by Monday or Tuesday."

He further said Biman has been facing challenges in carrying Hajj pilgrims, as the agencies failed to provide visa for them and rent houses timely. The cancellation or schedule rearrangement of Biman flights has been causing sufferings to the regular passengers.

Another 67,000 pilgrims will have to be carried within next 14 days, of which Biman will carry 35,000. Of the total 1,27,198 Hajj pilgrims from Bangladesh, 59,122 have reached Saudi Arabia till Sunday. Over 47,000 pilgrims are waiting at the Hajj camp, having passport with visa.  

Ashkona Hajj Camp director Saiful Islam said the agencies have not yet submitted 20,000 visas.

Hopefully there will be no problem with visas, as everyday agencies are submitting passports. As many as 16 agencies have been asked to remain present at the Hajj camp, as they have failed to submit passports on Sunday, he added.     

However, Hajj Agencies Association of Bangladesh (HAAB) officials opined that despite taking various steps carrying the remaining Hajj pilgrims is still a big challenge.   

HAAB secretary general M Shahadat Hossain Taslim told the FE on Sunday that the agencies are not responsible for the chaotic situation. Rather Biman should be blamed for the uncertainty of flights.

He said Biman did not discuss about slots of its flights with HAAB members.

"It is Biman's responsibility to carry the rest of the pilgrims to Saudi Arabia for performing Hajj."

He further said the complexities regarding the pilgrims' house rent have already been settled.

msshova@gmail.com, talhabinhabib@yahoo.com
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