Not defending the indefensible | Pakistan Today

Not defending the indefensible

  • The country has been shaken by the PIC incident

“The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis”.

– Dante Alighieri

At the very outset, let me invoke the Constitution. Article 5 casts an inviolable obligation upon every citizen to obey the law of the land. Article 9 stipulates that “no one shall be deprived of life or liberty save in according with law”. Above all, Article 4 holds aloft the banner of rule of law and states in no uncertain terms that it is the inalienable right of every citizen to be dealt with in accordance with law. Shortly stated, “In accordance with law” is the leitmotif that resonates throughout the Constitution.

No amount of justification, arguments, interpretation, distortion of facts and damage control can explain away the assault made by the lawyers on the Punjab Institute of Cardiology. Since when have the lawyers become a law unto themselves? Those involved in the attack made a mockery of law of the land and trampled upon the fundamental rights of other citizens. They must be brought to book and justice.

Any lawyer having a smattering of law knows how to set criminal machinery into motion. Why the lawyers did take the law into their own hands and fall back on mob justice in the first place baffles all the sane persons. Needless to say, a lawyer abides by the law and does not violate it.

It was a lawyer, Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, whose indefatigable efforts and heroic leadership translated the dream of another lawyer, Allama Muhammad Iqbal, into reality. Yet another lawyer, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, gave us the 1973 constitution and laid the groundwork for the atomic bomb. They all must be turning in their graves.

That a yawning gulf has come about between doctors and lawyers is dangerous. They both serve humanity. In the end, if they don’t mend their ways, humanity will suffer

It all started with a video doing the rounds on social media. Standing on a bench, a doctor, Muhammad Irfan, was bragging about the way the leadership of the lawyers made a compromise with doctors over an incident that happened earlier, where PIC doctors and staff brutally thrashed the lawyers with metal rods, so that their faces were badly swollen. The video fanned the flames of indignation among the legal fraternity against doctors. However, the lawyers should have exercised restraint. But it was not to be. What happened afterward was an equally repulsively shocking incident, dealing a crushing blow to the image of lawyers and doctors.

The wholesale condemnation of the legal fraternity and doctors is unwarranted, to say the least. If assaulting the hospital is downright bad, calling both fraternities names is equally shocking. One might be remiss in not condemning the brutal treatment meted out to the lawyers by the police. What the media does not tell us is that the lawyers were put behind bars and subjected to extreme custodial torture at night in utter disregard of Article 14 of the Constitution. One picture shows the lashes on the body of a lawyer. Empty-handed Barrister Saeed Nagra was bludgeoned unconscious. He was deliberately clubbed on the head by the police. Later he was admitted to hospital in a critical condition. He had gone to diffuse the situation. Another video showed a senior lawyer being slapped by doctors while the police looked on.

Lawyer leaders complain the lopsided narrative constructed by the media is a calculated attempt by it to drag the whole legal fraternity through the mud. At the time of writing, 81 lawyers have been jailed. To add insult to injury, many were paraded in the Anti-terrorism Court in uniform with their faces covered. If this is not barbarity by the state with the Prime Minister backing it, not least when he gave the police the go-ahead to deal with the lawyers with an iron hand, what is? Perhaps Imran Khan is oblivious to what happened to PML-Q’s government and Musharraf back in 2007 when the lawyers were jailed wholesale. As the biblical saying has it, sow the wind, reap the whirlwind.

The need of the hour is to address the deeper malaise at the heart of this incident: intolerance and violence. Intolerance begets intolerance. Violence begets violence.

Social media has rendered us highly intolerant of each others’ views. Without understanding, digesting and learning from competing viewpoints, we are ready to pick holes in others’ arguments, to verbally assault another, let loose a volley of abuse and claim the moral high ground. Social media has been turned into a platform where no one is saved from another’s negative views. Our time and energy are spent on getting likes from others and making them envious of our achievements.

We are a nation of extremes. We are not moderate. We either put a person on a pedestal or bash him so hard that he can’t stand again.

The helmet-wearing lawyer standing on the vandalised police van must have the movie Joker at the back of his mind. Even if he didn’t, the Joker bears an eerie resemblance to him. Both represent wanton destruction. Both signify rejection by the whole society.

The cold-blooded manner the attack was carried out makes any person in his or her right mind hang his head in utter humiliation and regret. Remorse often becomes the torchlight.

Who will have the last laugh? One thing is for sure: Humanity has lost. That doctors and lawyers are at each others’ throats is simply unimaginable.

The senior lawyers should not mince their words and call a spade a spade. They should not defend the indefensible, throwing their weight behind those who died and suffered grievously due to this incident.

That a yawning gulf has come about between doctors and lawyers is dangerous. They both serve humanity. In the end, if they don’t mend their ways, humanity will suffer.

United we stand, divided we fall. The profound polarisation caused by this saddening incident may shake the very foundations of Pakistan. Doctors and lawyers are Pakistanis first. Both would be doing a great disservice to Pakistan if they don’t sink their differences and rise above the interests of their groups. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that their leaderships will spare no efforts in bridging the divide, thereby ending the fissure.


The writer is a practising lawyer and a columnist based in Lahore. He can be reached [email protected]. He tweets @zaeem88225

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