A large number of lawyers staged a protest in front of Lahore’s Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC) on Wednesday. Things transformed from bad to worse when some ‘unruly’ young lawyers decided to attack the PIC and thrash doctors and paramedical staff. Patients were left alone as their attendants were forced to leave the building to save their lives. The entire episode—marked by terror and violence—took the life of three patients who were already in critical condition.
وکیلوں کے بلوے کا منظر ۔۔۔
کوئی مذہب شخص یا مذہب دنیا میں ہسپتالوں پر حملہ کیا جاتا ہے ؟ pic.twitter.com/p4R0pPfote
— خرم (@Happy_Paindu) December 11, 2019
After hours of continued violence, police arrested dozens of lawyers and unblocked the road. Punjab government also summoned extra troops of Rangers personnel to maintain law and order.
Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari tweeted that a total of 40 lawyers were arrested but four female lawyers were later released. “More arrests will follow,” she wrote.
40 lawyers arrested and locked up but now 4 women lawyers released. More arrests will follow. Will keep updating.
— Shireen Mazari (@ShireenMazari1) December 11, 2019
Punjab Health Minister Yasmeen Rashid at a press conference later in the day confirmed the deaths of three people. “Three patients including an elderly woman died after doctors failed to provide them timely treatment and remained engaged in averting the assault,” the minister said.
Experts condemned the incident and demanded the government to take swift action against those who took the law in their hands. Advocate Babar Sattar said:
Lawyers' attack on PIC is abhorrent & it isn't the 1st such incident. Those involved & easily identifiable must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of law. Our bar leaders must call for their licenses to be suspended. Time for us to show allegiance to rule of law & not tribalism
— Babar Sattar (@Babar_Sattar) December 11, 2019
The incident has been termed as a ‘sad reminder of colonial legacy’ where obedience to formal authority was considered a sign of submission and deplorable surrender.
Dominant cultural discourse in this country urges the young people to be able to hold 'big' office in order to violate any law for their personal gratification. A disrespect for formal authority is sad reminder of a ages-old colonist mindset. Time to fix it before it is too late.
— Saleha Anwar (@anwar_saleha) December 11, 2019
Saleha Anwar, a student of Political Science, also questioned if there is something wrong in the education system or culture in Pakistan.
The way lawyers attacked the PIC is a fresh evidence of our collective failure. These incidents are not acts of individuals. These groups–lawyers & doctors—represent the educated elite of this country. Something is seriously wrong in our education, culture or public discourse.
— Saleha Anwar (@anwar_saleha) December 11, 2019
“Lawyers’ attack was a reaction”
Punjab Bar Council (PBC) Vice Chairman Shahnawaz Ismail said on Wednesday that the lawyers’ attack at a Lahore hospital was their reaction to a video that went viral the previous day.
Ismail said that a couple of days ago, the doctors and hospital staff at the PIC beat up a lawyer who had brought his mother to the hospital for treatment.
He said that the health of the lawyer’s mother deteriorated as a result of doctors’ negligence. “When we filed a case against those responsible, police didn’t arrest anyone,” he said.”This is only a reaction to the video that went viral yesterday and doctors are responsible for the clash that took place.”
Ismail was referring to the video of a doctor who was saying that when a group of lawyers went to the secretariat and also requested the Punjab IG to register cases against doctors, they were told that nothing could be done about it.
The video ends with the doctor making fun of lawyers and talking about how they were beaten up.
— رقصِ بسمل۔۔۔ (@usman_reps) December 11, 2019
Doctors’ alleged negligence
It is worth noting that On November 24, a lawyer named Azeem Sindhu had his mother admitted to the PIC. While his mother was being treated, lawyers accused the PIC doctors of negligence. A scuffle broke out between a group of lawyers and doctors in the hospital resulting in both parties registering cases against each other.
The next day, doctors protested against lawyers and staged a dharna at Jail Road. The Grand Health Alliance also took part in the sit-in protest. On the other hand, lawyers protested by staging a dharna of their own at the civil secretariat outside the office of the chief secretary.
Two PIC employees were arrested on Tuesday due to which doctors protested. The lawyers blamed the police for not taking action against doctors and protested today as a result. During the protest, they stormed the emergency ward of the hospital.
Rangers deployed in Lahore
The government decided on Wednesday to deploy Rangers at important locations of the city. According to the interior ministry, 10 platoons and two companies of the paramilitary force have been deployed in the city.
Home Department, Provincial Government of Punjab has solicited deployment of 10 Platoons of Pakistan Rangers from Ministry of Interior, Federal Government of Pakistan at various places for maintenance of law and order situation in #Lahore. pic.twitter.com/q4jaLEc8F9
— Muhammad Ibrahim Qazi (@miqazi) December 11, 2019
One platoon will be deployed at the Governor House while another will be stationed at the area surrounding Lahore GOR I and II. The rest of the platoons, one each, will be deployed at the GPO Chowk Mall Road, Punjab Assembly, the Supreme Court Registry, Lahore High Court, Civil Secretariat, Aiwan-e-Adal, the IG office. One platoon will also be deployed at the PIC.
Two companies will be present in the city as a reserve force. Rangers have been deployed in the city as per the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 4(XXII) and 5. The paramilitary force has been deployed under the Pakistan Rangers Ordinance 1959 provision seven and 10.
PM Imran summons emergency session
Prime Minister Imran Khan summoned an emergency session on Wednesday after an angry mob of lawyers attacked a hospital and vandalized public property in the city.
— Geo English (@geonews_english) December 11, 2019
According to sources, the prime minister contacted Chief Secretary Punjab and Inspector General of Police Punjab, summoning a report on the incident within an hour. “We will not let anyone take the law into their hands,” the prime minister was quoted as saying by sources.
PM Imran gave directions for finding out those behind the incident and take adequate action against them. He also urged Chief Minister Punjab Usman Buzdar to visit the site of the attack.