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December 12, 2019

Lawyers on the loose


December 12, 2019

Wednesday saw some of the worst of humanity on display in Lahore, when men and women of the law decided to violate all its principles, threaten individuals and raid an institution. What made it all so horrifying was that the institution being attacked was a leading medical centre where patients in serious condition were being treated. The Punjab Institute of Cardiology, one of the leading cardiac care hospitals in Lahore, fell pretty to the mob of rampaging lawyers who seemed to hold ego higher than the lives of other citizens. The violence, vandalism and rioting ended up in the deaths of three patients and much property damage. Doctors fear other patients may be adversely affected in terms of their health by these unfortunate events.

The attack, which even in polite terms can only be called uncivilised, was apparently triggered by a video which went viral and showed young doctors mocking lawyers. While this ‘provocation – as it is being called by senior lawyers – may not be in the best taste, was certainly not enough for anyone to attack a hospital with vulnerable patients inside. A month ago, there had been a scuffle at the PIC between lawyers and young doctors, apparently as lawyers attempted to gain priority treatment for a particular patient. This scuffle led to 12 arrests and police intervention. On Wednesday, however, the Punjab Police decided to stand on the side for the most part of the ‘protest’ and it was only much later in the day that they intervened and used batons and teargas to try and calm down the situation. The damage, though, had already been done. As the images unfolded live on TV screens, the horror became even more clear; these are the men and women who are supposed to protect us, defend us, use the law to make an argument and fight a case. But instead of any of that, they resorted to terrorizing a hospital, making live social media threats against doctors and even assaulting government representatives.

As just a beginning, we hope strict action will be taken up by bar associations and any lawyer that indulged in rioting and threats and vandalism is debarred from practising. The prime minister has ordered a full inquiry as has the chief minister of Punjab. The Young Consultants Association has said that they will begin a strike and no consultant will be available at hospitals to treat the seriously ill. In the ends, it is the patients and their families who will suffer most. Our lawyers need to seriously consider what they have become. Their profession demands restraint and deliberation, not the kind of insanity we witnessed on Wednesday. This is not the first time lawyers have displayed such uncouth behaviour. We have seen judges being locked up, even assaulted, by lawyers. We have seen some of the worst illegal behaviour in fact from those who are supposed to guide us on what the law says. Punitive action from professional bodies and the police is necessary to prevent anything of this nature occurring again. The country stands shaken by the event. For now, one can only feel a deep sense of fear at the kind of people we have become – with utter lack of regard for either the law or human life.

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