–Smash window panes of Punjab Institute of Cardiology, ransack operation theatres, assault staff, visitors
–Fayyazul Hassan Chohan roughed up, police pelted with stones; 39 miscreants arrested
–YDA claims at least 12 patients died during lawyers’ protest, calls province-wide strike
LAHORE: At least three patients lost their lives and several others were injured after a mob of disgruntled lawyers stormed the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC), ransacked the hospital wards and operation theatres and tortured the staff and visitors.
Bushra Bibi was also among the deceased, whose death was confirmed by her son present on the scene. However, the Young Doctors Association (YDA) claimed that at least 12 patients had died during the violent clashes.
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 lawyers were protesting against a video that went viral on social media on Tuesday, in which a doctor is seen narrating an encounter with some lawyers in front of a group. According to the doctor in the video, a group of lawyers had gone to the inspector general of police and told him to charge “two doctors” under Section 7 of ATA. He narrated that the IG had refused while the lawyers had urged him to press charges, saying “they could save face” that way.
RAMPAGE AT PIC:
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.
The president and secretary of the Lahore High Court Bar Association also arrived at PIC to convince the angry lawyers to leave the hospital.
PM, CM TAKE NOTICE:
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.
Chief Minister Buzdar, who was in Islamabad to hold meetings with PTI MNAs, assured that action will be taken against those responsible for the violence.
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. The premier summoned a report from the provincial chief secretary and inspector general.
When asked why the government had not taken notice of tensions between doctors and lawyers earlier, Buzdar said that the matter had been resolved.
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.
The Punjab government also summoned extra troops of Rangers personnel to maintain law and order.
Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Asahiq Awan strongly condemned the attack. In a tweet, she said that those who took law in their own hands would be brought to book.
She said torture on provincial information minister Fayyazul Hassan Chohan, ransacking of hospital and harassing the relatives of the patients were highly condemnable and regrettable acts.
WHAT SPARKED THE VIOLENCE?
According to Punjab Bar Council (PBC) Vice Chairman Shahnawaz Ismail, the lawyers’ attack was their reaction to the video that went viral on Tuesday.
Ismail said that on Nov 24, the doctors and hospital staff at the PIC beat up a lawyer Azeem Sindhu 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.”
DOCTORS, LAWYERS GO ON STRIKE:
Following the protest, both doctors–led by Young Doctor Association– and lawyers of the 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 no consultant will be on duty all across Punjab on Thursday. “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.