Black Day: When A Quarrel Turned Into A Massacre
On December 11, more than 500 lawyers decided to storm the largest cardiac institute of Pakistan, the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC). At least three patients have lost their lives due to unavailability of doctors. The number of deceased could increase as some patients in critical conditions were left unattended. Police arrested 40 lawyers, 6 of which were women.
The doctors called it a horrendous act committed by lawyers to gain popularity in upcoming elections.
Some lawyers called it a peaceful protest against the officials of the Young Doctor Association who had mocked their profession. Meanwhile, the government took notice and decided to take action against lawyers who were involved in this incident.
Geneva Convention’s Article 35 says that directing an attack against a zone established to shelter the wounded, the sick and civilians from the effects of hostilities is prohibited.
According to the Geneva Conventions, hospitals are not meant to be attacked even in war zones, yet we saw lawyers engaging in violence against a hospital.
The episode started on 23rd November when a lawyer named Azeem Sindhu had a brawl with paramedics at PIC, where he refused to stand in a line to get medicines. The tussle turned into a fight wherein some 20 lawyers came to PIC and fought with hospital staff and doctors.
After this incident, lawyers protested five times, demanding quick legal action including arrest of the guilty staff, registration of FIR under 324 (attempt to murder) and 78-A of Anti-Terrorism court.
The doctors, on the other side, apologized publicly on December 5.
Lawyers’ take on the whole fiasco
According to lawyers, they decided to record a ‘peaceful protest’ after a video was circulated on social media where PIC Grand Health Alliance Chairman Dr Irfan could be seen mocking lawyers after their fight with paramedic staff. The video instigated the whole protest as it was claimed to be a direct attack on judiciary.
Punjab Bar Council Vice Chairman Shahnawaz Ismail announced a strike to protest against the attack on lawyers in PIC.
A senior lawyer told media that there were more than 27 thousand lawyers registered in Lahore district, and the attack was a foolish step by some junior lawyers. The lawyer stated that they supported action against the lawyers involved in the incident.
A judicial expert has revealed that things could have been settled earlier if an earlier plan had been followed to file a petition under 154-A (hate speech) against Dr Irfan.
Police Remarks on riots
On being asked about the failure of the police, the senior officers, including DIG Investigation, disclosed that they had no idea that lawyers would attack the hospital with guns. They were of the view that they could not resist a mob like this one after the ‘Model Town’ incident without orders from a top authority.
A junior officer reported that lawyers attacked the hospital three times. The first time, they attacked the police and entered the hospital. They then broke the doors and machines. Lawyers then barged into the emergency and started beating doctors, nurses and relatives of patients. Police responded by resisting and tried to stop them through the use of tear gas.
A senior member of GHA, Dr Zeeshan, demanded the resignation of chief minister Punjab, health minister and law minister. He questioned, “When the issue had been resolved and as a gesture of goodwill, we offered them peace, how come they attacked the institute of a government?” He added, “For two hours, no one came for us.”
GHA Chairman Dr Irfan stated that the night before the attack, both parties had met at DIG Operations’ office, and it had been decided that a special counter would be made to resolve the issue. He said that because of the upcoming elections, some lawyers circulated his old video and asked for help from candidates taking part in the elections in return for votes.
Later on, YDA announced a strike and sent critical patients to their homes.
A doctor revealed that protesters attacked the ICU too. “We tried not to leave critical patients. On resistance, lawyers attacked a female doctor. We had to lock our rooms to save our lives.”
Prime Minister Imran Khan took notice and announced an investigation by ordering a report from the chief secretary of Punjab.
The chief minister ordered an investigation into the attack and summoned a report from the Lahore Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) and provincial secretary of specialised health and medical education.
Punjab Information Minister Fayaz ul Hassan Chohan said that the government would compensate the heirs of the ‘martyred patients’ and doctors who suffered material losses such as vehicular damage.
Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid said, “It could not have been more shameful than this. I regret that they did not even pause to think about what they were doing. They were so enraged that all reasoning had just left them.”
Patients’ Point of View
Patients said that the lawyers entered into the emergency ward and attacked everyone, even the patients. “We saved our lives in the washroom. There were four to five people in every washroom when they attacked us,” one patient said.
Patients also narrated how lawyers thrashed the ventilators, following which every staff member left the scene.