All those present in the room at a hotel in Istanbul were stunned when I informed them about the despicable scene at the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC). The participants included Pakistani, British, Afghan and Indian delegates to a consultation on regional security. Nobody could believe that somebody can descend to the levels of animals to cause several deaths. It may be fake news, remarked a British colleague, sending a chill down my spine.
I had just turned on Twitter as we all rose for a coffee break. It was early afternoon and Twitter was already flooded with videos of the lawyers’ rampage, the speeches, and slogans before and during their assault on the PIC.
There is no justification whatsoever for this attack at all. This required a direct, unconditional condemnation with no caveats of ifs and buts
Our British friend was perfectly right when she – in disbelief – questioned the veracity of the news because in civilized societies nobody can even in his or her wildest imagination engineer a violent attack on a hospital. Her reaction made sense because hospitals enjoy protection by the Geneva Convention even during the worst of conflicts but what we saw was lawyers hurling threats at doctors. “Your death is upon your head … it is your doom’s day… Teach them a lesson….” What followed was simply horrific.
This was a shame written all over; humans in black coats, moving with beastly instincts, stormed not only the hospital but took everything under their feet – critically ill patients, life-saving machines and, of course, doctors.
Much more depressing were political stalwarts like Raza Rabbani, legal wizard-like Hamid Khan, and many journalists who brazenly attempted to prove a leeway to the rowdy lawyers by invoking strange arguments. Their emphasis was on tit-for-tat or some justification that prompted lawyers to assault the hospital.
Equally shameful that Hamid Khan appeared at a press conference on Friday along with another notorious law defender, former attorney general Malik Qayum, to create a facade of apology.
But this was a shameful obfuscation of one fundamental issue: it was not about who triggered the attack but the issue at hand was who the attackers were and under what legal or moral authority they indulged in this violence that took so many lives.
There is no justification whatsoever for this attack at all. This required a direct, unconditional condemnation with no caveats of ifs and buts.
Even if the lawyers were annoyed with a doctor or two, how can they destroy public life and property to settle personal scores?
And herein lies the new low depth that leading segments of the society – politicians, lawyers, doctors, retired generals and businessmen – have hit. Integrity has fallen victim to unguarded populism. Even former chief justice Saqib Nisar must take part of the blame for this horrendous attitude by people he used to call ‘my soldiers’.
The term ‘terrorism’ can be applied to the use of force, under an organised plan, for the realization of religious, ideological or political goals
The ensuing strike calls by lawyers and intimidation of the press underscore another shame; having caused deaths, they are now threatening the entire society. For what? Are they above law? Certainly not. That is why this is a now or never for all institutions of Pakistan to act indiscriminately against people who lowered themselves to beasts and are still unrepentant. In fact, they continue to find justifications for their indefensible acts.
This is rot and it must be stemmed through resolute action. Unless the state institutions act in unison to punish the mobsters, the rot will continue. This is the moment to correct the course of overbearing lawyers who destroy lives, occupy public properties. This is the time to also institute payment mechanisms for all law practitioners. Otherwise, the citizens’ confidence in the rule of law will continue eroding. It is time to act for a now or never outcome.
Big question facing us all and particularly the Supreme Court: will the judiciary now adjudicate the PIC attack under the revised definition of terrorism that it gave in its October 27 ruling?
According to the judgment, the term ‘terrorism’ can be applied to the use of force, under an organized plan, for the realization of religious, ideological or political goals. It can also be applied when, under the plan, terror is struck in the hearts of people and damage dealt to lives and property.
Attacking journalists, the business community, the public, and the social sector under an organized plan also falls within the definition of terrorism. Similarly, an attack on law enforcement agencies and security forces is also terrorism, according to the judgment. The government, the judiciary and security institutions are indeed on trial for making it now or never.
Imtiaz Gul is the founder and Executive Director of the Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS), an Islamabad-based think tank. He is the author of Pakistan: Pivot of Hizbut Tahrir’s Global Caliphate. This article was originally published in the Daily Times and has been republished with permission. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.