- The PIC incident must be condemned, but only lawyers involved should be
In times of war, all hell breaks loose, violence ensues and mass casualties are inflicted. But even in such times of conflict, certain ground rules are set, the violation of which is a war crime. Attacking a hospital, where innocent civilians are under treatment, is one of them. Even the most prolific barbarians do not strike a hospital. What happened on 11 December is horrific, and condemning it in mere words would be unjust. The storming of the hospital’s emergency and the intensive care unit is despicable and it is incumbent upon the legal fraternity to vilify the act, which most of the literate part of the fraternity already has.
Provocation, no matter how intense, cannot be a ground to take the law into one’s own hands. Mob justice under the garb of hurt sentiments has long been present in Pakistan and it is high time that steps are taken to completely abolish this practice. The hospital was a no-go area and the number of lawyers who participated in ransacking it deserve no leniency.
However, without prejudice, action against the delinquents should be taken in a proportionate manner and after a thorough investigation. Mass arrests, without probing into the involvement of the detained lawyers, is no less condemnable. There are reports of lawyers having been arrested who were not even present in Lahore at the time of the incident. The detained lawyers are also being physically tortured by the police, which in itself is a violation of the law.
Even though the deplorable act of the group of lawyers involved in ransacking the Punjab Institute of Cardiology merits strict action however, even those accused have a fundamental right of being treated in accordance with law and to be accorded due process. It is for the courts to determine the role and guilt of a particular accused, and to punish them accordingly. The police cannot be allowed to straightaway carry out illegal punishments by torturing the detainees.
Similarly, the ongoing media trial of the entire legal fraternity is uncalled for. The lawyers at the PIC do not form the entirety of the bar. The actions of 300 lawyers should not be blamed upon the thousands of other lawyers practicing professionally. The black coat is also worn by countless other individuals who had nothing to do with the incident and who are actively condemning it. By marginalising the entire legal community, these lawyers are being defamed for simply wearing the black coat. Media should put forward the unbiased view from both sides.
In a bid to shackle unruly lawyers, let us not give rise to another counter-force in the shape of the young doctors. It is only a matter of time when these doctors would turn out to be like those who attacked the PIC and the public would be seen condemning ‘Doctorgardi’. The government and media should narrow their focus to those involved rather than degrading the entire legal fraternity. The narrative of the professional lawyers should also be presented and the black coat should not be portrayed as a symbol of hostility alone. The other side of the Bar should also be brought forward and the comments on the PIC incident should be rephrased to say: ‘the group of lawyers involved in the violent attack’ as opposed to ‘the legal community in general’
Again, not supporting the PIC incident in any manner, but the young doctors’ community is also not as saintly as is being portrayed. The general actions of the young doctors resemble that of the charged-up lawyers who attacked the PIC. Let us not forget that it was these doctors who themselves assaulted a group of lawyers in the very same hospital a few weeks ago; and no action was taken against those involved. The very same doctors RE responsible for the deaths of dozens owing to their own strikes.
As the fateful events unfolded, there were certain aspects which would raise eyebrows. The civil administration kept mum until after the situation aggravated and culminated into loss of life and property. No visible efforts were made by the police to avert the incident till after the situation was already out of hand. Likewise, the government should have played an active role in resolving the matter when it started. Once again, there is no justification for the PIC attack but had the government taken steps to amicably settle the matter, we would not have had to bear this burden today.
Simultaneously, the suspension of the bar license of the Secretary, Islamabad High Court Bar Association, is unwarranted under the circumstances. As opposed to teaching the lawyers a lesson, such steps add more fuel to the fire. The Bar up till the point of suspension had no animosity with the Bench but with the issuance of the show cause notice, the Bench has created unnecessary friction. Striking the iron when it’s hot is not always a good option.
Nevertheless, a judicial inquiry into the PIC incident is the need of the hour and only the constitution of a judicial commission over the incident can set things on the right track. Meanwhile, the government should also refrain from irrationally targeting the legal community irrespective of their role in the fateful incident. It appears as though the government is using this incident as a means to put an end to ‘wuklagardi’, a lofty motive. However, the state should be mindful of the several thousand lawyers who had nothing to do with the PIC attack. On the basis of the action of a small group within, the legal community as a whole should not be berated.
In a bid to shackle unruly lawyers, let us not give rise to another counter-force in the shape of the young doctors. It is only a matter of time when these doctors would turn out to be like those who attacked the PIC and the public would be seen condemning ‘Doctorgardi’. The government and media should narrow their focus to those involved rather than degrading the entire legal fraternity. The narrative of the professional lawyers should also be presented and the black coat should not be portrayed as a symbol of hostility alone. The other side of the Bar should also be brought forward and the comments on the PIC incident should be rephrased to say: ‘the group of lawyers involved in the violent attack’ as opposed to ‘the legal community in general’.
The Punjab police should immediately refrain from targeting innocent lawyers having no nexus with the PIC incident. They cannot be allowed to take over the role of the judge, jury and executioner on their own. Custodial torture needs to be reprimanded and discontinued forthwith.
In the end, as a member of the legal fraternity, I hope and pray that the noble profession of law regains its glory and the entire saga is put to rest.