9 dead as lawyers storm Lahore hospital in a planned terror assault

  • Violent mob of law practitioners beat doctors, stone patients, ransack premises   
  • Thrash Ministers, cops   
  • Set ablaze police mobile van

 From Abid Usman
LAHORE: At least nine patients lost their lives and several others were injured after a mob comprising disgruntled lawyers stormed the Punjab Institute of Cardiology and ransacked the hospital wards and operation theatres in addition to intimidation of the staff and visitors.
The government however claims that the number of deaths is much lower than the toll being reported in media. Health Minister Yasmin Rashid in a presser claimed that only three patients were killed as a result of the scuffle.
The number of deaths was confirmed by Punjab Health Minister Yasmin Rashid. BushraBibi was also among the deceased, whose death was confirmed by her son present on the scene. However, doctors claimed that the number of people who died during the protest was more than 10.
The number of deceased could increase as some patients –in critical condition– were left unattended after the lawyers barged inside emergency wards, said Grand Health Alliance (GHA) Chairman Dr Salman Haseeb.
The attack on the hospital was triggered by a ‘video’ wherein a doctor could be heard mocking lawyers for an earlier incident where the lawyers were beaten up by the doctors and hospital staffers.
Lawyers initially blocked the entry and exit points of the hospital, which led to a violent scuffle between the staff and lawyers.
According to reports and the video footage, the protesting lawyers damaged equipment inside and broke windows of the hospital as well as cars parked outside. The protesters also smashed doors of emergency theatres and staff barely escaped the violence.
Meanwhile, the lawyers also attacked media personnel on the site with stones. A female reporter, Kinza Malik, of a private media outlet was injured. She also lost her phone to the vandals.
Some of the protesters fired gunshots and pelted arriving police with stones and bricks, according to a hospital doctor, Ashraf Nizami. Several lawyers were arrested, police said.
“It was catastrophic for hours,” Nizami said, adding that a 70-year-old female patient had died, and several patients were left unattended for hours, during the violence.
Nizami said the attackers forced doctors and nurses to flee, leaving patients in emergency and intensive care unattended. Police fired tear gas to quell the mob while terrified patients and hospital staff fled to safety, officials said. Punjab Information Minister Fayyazaul Hassan Chohan also got caught in the eye of the storm.
The minister claimed that “lawyers had tried to kidnap” him. In a video, he can be seen being manhandled by a group of protesting lawyers.
Lahore DIG Operations Ashfaq Ahmad Khan also arrived at the hospital as the protest raged. He said that those who took the law into their own hands will be dealt with strongly.
Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chief Minister Usman Buzdar took notice of the incident as the report of the violent protest hit the airwaves.
Prime Minister Imran Khan sought a report from Chief Secretary Azam Suleman and Inspector General of Police (IGP) Shoaib Dastgir, whereas Buzdar directed the Specialised Health Secretary Nadir Chattha and CCPO Lahore BA Nasir to submit a detailed report on the issue.
According to Chohan, the chief minister ordered a committee to be formed to take action against these lawyers. The committee will be headed by Law Minister Raja Basharrat, he added.
Following the protest, both doctors–led by Young Doctor Association– and lawyers’ Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) issued strike calls to protest the incident, each claiming to be the aggrieved party in the case.
Pakistan Bar Council Vice Chairman Syed Amjad Shah said that he condemned the violence created by the lawyers at the hospital but appeared to deflect blame on medical professionals.
He said that it was the doctors who had initially misbehaved with the lawyers and then the issue turned violent whereas the rioting was the individual act by a few lawyers.
Young Consultants Association (YCA) announced a nationwide strike after the violent protest. YCA President Dr. Hammad Butt said that tomorrow no consultant will be on duty all across Punjab.
“The vandalism by lawyers is highly condemnable,” said Butt
It is the second time in less than a month that the medical facility has come under attack.
A similar incident was reported on Nov 20 when a public brawl broke out between a group of lawyers and the hospital staff. A lawyer’s body said at the time that the incident took place after some lawyers were allegedly beaten on the premises of PIC.
PM takes notice, seeks report
By Ajmal Khan Yousafzai
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan Wednesday took notice of the incident involving a group of lawyers who stormed the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC) and subjected patients, doctors and visitors to physical violence.
According to a press release of the PM Office media wing, the prime minister summoned report from the provincial Chief Secretary and the Inspector General.
Agencies add: Punjab Law Minister Raja Basharat on Wednesday announced the government’s decision to fully prosecute all those involved in the violent protest at the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC).
“I assure you all, the government will see to it that no concessions are made,” said the law minister, addressing a press conference alongside Punjab Information Minister Fayyazul Hasan Chauhan — who was manhandled by lawyers at the protest — and Punjab Health Minister Yasmeen Rashid.
“The government cannot allow anyone to take the law into their own hands. Those who tried to, will be held accountable.”
He said that in this regard, the Chief Minister Usman Buzdar has instructed that the lawyers who were involved and others who have been identified in video footage of the protests “will all be prosecuted”.
“He has clearly stated that no one who took the law into his hands will be spared and legal action of the strictest kind will be taken against them,” added Basharat. “There is a need to end the high-handed culture which has begun to take flight,” he said.
The minister, reiterating the government’s stance, said that while doctors and lawyers are both respected members of society, “they can never be allowed to take the law into their hands.”
He said a two-tier investigation has been launched into the incident. Part of the investigation will focus on whether the “police’s negligence in enforcing the law” had a role to play. Basharat said that the situation had been simmering since November “and the appropriate circles were not taken into confidence or apprised of the developments”. “A separate investigation into this will take place,” he said.
The minister condemned the mistreatment of Chauhan and Rashid as they tried to defuse the situation at the protest venue.
“Their presence at the hospital was evidence of the fact that the government tried their utmost to not remain detached from the situation,” he said, adding, “Had they not been present, we could have witnessed a far worse outcome.”
The law minister asked lawyers to “show restraint”. “If they are able to show contrition for their wrongdoing, their honour will not be diminished.”
He also urged the doctors to call off their decision to boycott hospital emergency wards. “Those who come seeking treatment are at no fault. For innocent citizens to bear the cost of someone’s high-handedness will be a great injustice.”
Gory incident widely condemned
Bureau Report
LAHORE: As the protest by lawyers outside Lahore’s Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC) on Wednesday took an ugly turn, members of the legal fraternity slammed those protesters who resorted to violence. PPP leader and senior lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan, while talking to the media, said that the violence was “shameful and should be condemned”.
“Many of them will be candidates for the January election coming up. They want to become prominent. These people should not be allowed to even contest the elections. These lawyers are destroying the reputation of all lawyers. My head is bowed with shame,” he said.
“They have attacked a hospital. For black coats to break the glasses and enter wards — this should never happen. Everyone who took part in this should not be voted for.”
Some members of the legal fraternity took to Twitter to express their concern and called for action to be taken against the lawyers for attacking a hospital.
Lawyer Babar Sattar called the violence “abhorrent” and pointed out that “it isn’t the first such incident”. He said that the bar leaders should call for the cancellation of the licences of the lawyers involved.
“Time for us to show allegiance to rule of law and not tribalism,” he tweeted.
Barrister Asad Rahim Khan said hospitals are untouchable “even in war”.
“Lawyers who support attacking a cardiac centre should be disbarred. And lawyers who partake in the violence – attacking patients, disrupting heart surgery, letting people die – should be in jail. There is no other angle to view this from.”
Taimur Malik, a prominent lawyer, said that the legal fraternity “need(s) to speak up today and condemn the criminal actions of those who targeted PIC”.
Lahore-based lawyer Feisal H. Naqvi called the incident “horrible beyond words”.
“Attacking a hospital, causing people to die, thrashing a minister […] These are not lawyers. These are thugs.”
Journalist Khurram Husain said he was “speechless at the sight of the ransacking” of the hospital, pointing out that the intensive care unit had been emptied due to the protest.
“Those who have held bedside vigil for a patient in a cardiac ICU know what it means to have to flee the ward in these circumstances. Even animals are better behaved.”
Ali Salman Alvi said there should have been “ruthless police action” against the lawyers who held the PIC under siege.
Rimmel Mohydin, the regional campaigner for Amnesty International South Asia, pointed out that if “@PunjabSafe cameras can be used to identify students from the solidarity march, to harass, intimidate and arrest them – perhaps use these tools to catch actual criminals here?”
Journalist Mohammad Malick said the lawyers “must be made to pay for their crimes”.
“One poor woman has already lost her life cause doctors ran away in fear of their lives,” Malick lamented.
Journalist Bilal Farooqi, sharing a video of lawyers trying to enter the hospital premises, noted: “About time that we stop calling anyone with a professional degree in Pakistan ‘Parha Likha’ or educated and learned. Our educational system doesn’t impart basic human values, only teaches us to earn money. These lawyers have proved that with their shameful attack on a hospital.”
Journalist Zarrar Khuhro said an anti-terrorism case should be registered against the protesters. “This is culpable homicide.”
Lawyer and columnist Saad Rasool called “the barbarianism” of lawyers today “disgraceful”. “Every member of the legal fraternity should hang his/her head in shame.”