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December 14, 2019

Protesting lawyers demand action against both sides


December 14, 2019

The legal fraternity on Friday observed strike at the Sindh High Court and other subordinate courts in Karachi against what they said the biased conduct of police in Lahore after the rampage incident at the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC).

Addressing a press conference at the Supreme Court Karachi Registry, Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) President Syed Qalb-e-Hassan and other members condemned the PIC incident, calling it something unfortunate which should not have happened.

The SCBA president said lawyers should not have gone to the hospital to lodging their protest against doctors’ misconduct with their colleagues. He, however, added that the protesting lawyers were also pelted with stones by hospital staff from the roof.

He said the government should have acted in a timely manner to resolve the conflict which had been continuing for the last couple of weeks and now the government should end the conflict between the lawyers and PIC doctors.

He called for the formation of a committee comprising a high court judge, hospital representatives and lawyers which may recommend action against lawyers and doctors responsible for the incident as per their relevant code of conduct. He also condemned police torture on lawyers during custody.

Meanwhile, the Sindh High Court Bar Association (SHCBA) also condemned the Punjab government for its failure to resolve the matter between the lawyers and doctors at the right time and allowing it to escalate. The SHCBA also criticised the media for reporting one-sided version against the lawyers and purposefully destroying the image of lawyers in the eyes of public.

The bar association also lambasted the Punjab police for thrashing lawyers. It bemoaned the fact that two educated segments of society had resorted to violence.

The SHCBA also disapproved the actions of a few young lawyers who went to the hospital in Lahore for a protest. It, however, added that the violence erupted due to the failure of the government, local administration and police.

The bar association also lamented the loss of lives in the incident, saying that the legal fraternity respected the sanctity of hospitals that were a place to save lives. It said it disapproved pf violence as a way of protest, no matter who committed it.

The SHCBA demanded a judicial inquiry into the incident, saying that action be taken against all the wrongdoers, including the delinquent officers of the Punjab police and the administration that allowed all that to happen as well as the medical staff who resorted to violence.

The association also demanded that action be taken against hate speech by some PIC doctors and the maltreatment of lawyers a few weeks ago on the PIC premises.

KBA-SHCBA meeting

The Karachi Bar Association (KBA) and the SHCBA held a joint meeting at the City Courts as they denounced the Lahore incident in which lawyers attacked the Punjab Institute of Cardiology. They also criticised the retaliatory crackdown by the authorities against lawyers.

KBA president Naeem Qureshi said the incident should not have happened in the first place. But, he added, the behaviour of police and authorities was also condemnable.

Senior lawyer and Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan-backed politician Gulfaraz Khan Khattak said every sane person would condemn the Lahore incident. “But only one party cannot be blamed for the incident,” he added.

“The government should have intervened before to avert this but it seemed that it wanted this to happen,” Khattak remarked. “Because the federal and provincial governments have failed in providing relief to the people and they wanted to divert the public attention towards the confrontation between lawyers and doctors.”

During the strike, litigants, under trial prisoners and their families suffered as lawyers locked down the gates of the City Courts and boycotted the courts in protest.

The incident

The incident took place on Wednesday when an unbridled group of lawyers stormed the PIC to settle score with doctors in an ongoing face-off, resulting in the death of at least three patients, while the Punjab government acted as silent spectator in the brewing crisis waiting to boil down for the last three weeks.

According to independent sources, at least three patients including Gulshan Bibi and Muhammad Anwar died due to discontinuation of treatment during the scuffles and brawls as the lawyers attacked the cardiac hospital.