Indefensible violence

December 22, 2019

Senior lawyers should not defend the indefensible but instead throw their weight behind those speaking for who died and suffered grievously due to this gut-wrenching incident

Patients vacating Punjab Institute of Cardiology. — Photo by Rahat Dar

“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 for my advantage and defence. Article 5 of the Constitution casts an inviolable obligation upon every citizen to obey the law of the land. Article 9 of the Constitution 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 by some lawyers on the Punjab Institute of Cardiology. Since when are the lawyers a law unto themselves? Those involved in attacking the PIC 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 lawyers in fact any citizens having a smattering of law, knows how to set criminal machinery into motion. Why did the lawyers take the law into their own hands and fall back on mob justice in the first place baffles all sane persons. Needless to say, to be a lawyer is to abide by the law and not to violate it.

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

It all started with a provocative 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 agreed to a settlement with doctors following an earlier incident when some doctors and the staff of the PIC brutally thrashed some lawyers with metal rods, with the result that their faces were badly swollen. The video fanned the flames of indignation among legal fraternity against the doctors. However, the lawyers should have exercised restraint. But it was not to be. What followed was a repulsive and shocking incident, dealing a crushing blow to the popular image of lawyers and doctors.

The wholesale condemnation of the legal fraternity as well as doctors, however, is unwarranted, unjustified and uncalled for. One might be remiss in one’s duties in not condemning the brutal treatment meted out to the lawyers by the police. What has not been reported in the media us is that some of the lawyers were put behind bars and subjected to extreme custodial torture the following night in utter disregard of Article 14 of the Constitution. One picture shows bruises left by a cashing received by a lawyer. An unarmed Barrister Saeed Nagra was bludgeoned into unconsciousness. Witnesses said was deliberately hit on the head with a club by the police. Later on, he was admitted to a hospital in a critical condition. Nagra had gone to the PIC to defuse the situation. Another video showed a senior lawyer being is slapped in the face by doctors while the police looked on. At the time of this writing, 81 lawyers had been jailed. To add insult to the injury, many of the lawyers were paraded in the anti-terrorism court in their uniforms with their faces covered.

The need of the hour is to address the deeper malaise at the heart of this gut-wrenching incident: intolerance and resort to violence. Intolerance begets intolerance. Violence begets violence. Social media, where the provocative video surfaced first, has rendered us highly intolerant of one anothers’ views. Without understanding, digesting and learning from competing viewpoints, we are ready to pick holes in another’s arguments, to verbally assault him/her, to let loose a volley of abuse and to still claim moral high ground.

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

Who will have the last laugh? It is hard to say. But one thing is for sure: humanity was lost in the fray. That doctors and lawyers are at each other’s throat is simply unimaginable.

Senior lawyers should better than mince their words, and call a spade a spade. They should not defend the indefensible. Instead, they should keep their distance, throwing their weight behind those speaking for those who died and suffered grievously.

That a yawning gulf has come about between doctors and lawyers is dangerous. Doctors and lawyers both serve humanity. In the end, humanity will suffer because of this polarisation, if the parties don’t mend their ways. Both would be doing a great disservice to Pakistan if they don’t sink their differences and rise above the petty 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 at He tweets @zaeem88225

Lahore lawyers' attack: Indefensible violence