Following the WHO recommendations to place travel restrictions on Pakistan owing to the country’s failure to stem the spread of polio, the Punjab government has announced that people travelling to the province from other provinces of the country must produce polio vaccination certificates or get vaccinated on the spot. Consequently, vaccination teams and the police will be deployed at entry and exits points in the Punjab.

The devolution of the health ministry to the provinces following the 18th amendment gives the Punjab government every legal right to restrict travel into and out of its borders. Though it is questionable that the motivation here is purely the protection and health of its people, the move could be a pressure tactic to force the KP government to address the issue in a serious way. Despite the much touted Sehat ka Insaaf immunization drive, reports on the ground allege that not much has been done to seriously tackle the issue, or to provide security to polio vaccination teams working in the province. By restricting travel to and from other provinces, the Punjab government may well be doing everybody, not least of all the children of KP and Sindh, a favour.

The second motivation of course, might be more political than the first. It is safe to assume that the Sharif the Saviour- Imran Khan the Non-Doer- PPP the Who? narrative plays well into the issue. What better way to snub a provincial government than to raise the drawbridge, to create enough hype that muddies one and glorifies the one safe province in all the land?

Logistically the move to restrict movements between provinces will be difficult. How will the government protect its polio vaccination teams where other provincial governments have failed to do so? How will the staff and police cope with vaccinating, certifying, administering, policing? Will there be a fool-proof digital database holding records? Most adults today lack any proof of their vaccination, except for the fact that they can walk just fine.

Ultimately it is still unclear what these restrictions, local and international, will mean. The requirements for the certificates have yet to be finalized by the WHO. One hopes they will not turn into most other bureaucratic certifications in Pakistan, which often required time, sources and money. How quickly can all of this, realistically speaking, take effect? And will the policies be proportional to the problem without compromising the rights of citizens to free movement?