The move of the federal government banning VIP protocols at the airports across Pakistan is praiseworthy. The decision to impose a ban on such protocols is part of the austerity plan that the ruling party Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) is keen on implementing. Hence the new directions issued to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) stops it from giving preferential treatment to some of the passengers.

PTI’s government is not the first one that despises this practice. Ahsan Iqbal, the former Interior Minister, in late August 2017 issued almost similar letter intending to ban such protocols but without much success. So it is not surprising at all if people show a lukewarm response to the current Interior Ministry’s decision that bars VIP protocols. The ban on VIP protocols at airports and roads have been announced many a time. Nevertheless, the constant violations of such orders have made the notion a running joke in the government circles.

As we have observed countless times, a simple letter banning it is not enough – heads must roll, people held accountable, and a precedent set for things to truly come into force. Fortunately, Airports are the easiest place where such rules can be enforced; the whole structure is covered with security cameras and details of each activity – such as flight timings and boarding procedures – minutely logged and scheduled. It should be easy to detect when VIP’s have been given undue privileges; and at that moment, both the VIP in question, and the official who accommodated them can be identified and punished.

Unless a strong and visible precedent is set no one will start to curb the practices which are entrenched into the system. In every definition of the word “law”, the enforcement of the rule is a necessary aspect of law’s legitimacy. Mere words on paper cannot change actions.