Attacking Pakistan Institute of Cardiology


Hundreds of black coats mounted an attack on Pakistan Institute of Cardiology, walking all the way from Court to the hospital without being checked. The nation watched shocked as this attack continued for roughly four hours, destroying public property, barging into ICU, manhandling those on premises including patients’ attendants. Many were armed. Videos of the march and the attack went viral on the social media, showing some lawyers firing in the air during the walk to the PIC and in the hospital compound. A group of marching lawyers was seen chanting slogans like “big operations will be done today” and “stents will be put in today”. Police had to resort to use of tear gas, batons and water cannons but not before three patients died during the chaos as per officials.
The lawyers reported anger when doctors showed muscle in November. Reportedly, the issue was simmering during the past few days. Video of a young doctors making a speech about the lawyers surfaced that has been taken up as a reason for the attack by many lawyers.
This hooliganism is not sudden. It has it seeds in the Lawyers’ Movement hailed at the time but changed the psyche of a profession practitioners. Another incident that took place was in 2017 when a Multan based lawyer Sher Zaman Qureshi, became notorious taking on the bench of the highest court of the province. A report published in Herald in November 2017 states, “The lawyers who have been insulting courtrooms and judges in Punjab commit criminal actions. They need to be identified and punished for hooliganism and contempt of court. We cannot equate these criminal acts with the actions of judges making decisions we disagree with. If we think that hooliganism, intimidation and contempt of court are understandable reactions to decisions we disagree with, then the moral compass is lost. I call this the Taliban logic; all grave crimes are explained away by suggesting that the perpetrators of the crimes have some grievances too. In societies plagued by the absence of the rule of law and by vigilante violence, the first casualty is the loss of a sense of proportion. The slightest annoyance becomes the basis for justifying criminal actions.”
Coming back to attack on PIC a number of issues rear head:
First, the growing bitterness between the practitioners of the two professions was obviously growing for past some week. Why was there no effort by the administration to address the issue before it boiled over? A case was registered in November against some doctors and paramedics allegedly torturing some lawyers.
Second, even if a young doctor’s video had statements that injured the feelings of the lawyers, the reaction was out of proportion. A better response was to release a response via a video. Irrespective, it cannot, does not justify an attack on a heart institute causing horrendous outcome. If people in a civilized nation decide to react taking law into their hands, they are effectively practicing law of the jungle. Though commonly understood it means everyone out to serve their advantage, Rudyard Kipling who coined the phrase in The Second Jungle Book, explains it as “a law that wolves in a pack are supposed to obey. His poem says that ‘the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack’.”
Third, it has created professional polarization in a society that is already polarized on many grounds.
Not only the attack cost lives, it reportedly cost 70 million rupees to the national exchequer. FIR was registered against 250 (give or take) lawyers who were part of this attack. As a result, not only the Punjab Bar Council declared a country wide strike on 19th December, but the reaction seems to be spreading at the tehsil levels. A letter signed by three lawyers on the letterhead of Tehsil Bar Association Zafarwal warns fraternity members against giving a chair to any doctor during any proceeding. The same letter also informs judges not to allow the same.
The confrontation has taken an ugly turn. Although both the doctors and the lawyers have their own share of blame but because of this attack on PIC, tables have been turned on the legal fraternity by some of their own members. No one can support or not condemn this action.
The issue however is deeper. The rising intolerance in a society that is tearing apart the social fabric. The reasons are multifaceted. Frustration arising due to financial issues, job issues, making ends meet and so on. Above all, this lack of tolerance has been fanned by religious differences that has seeped into all other areas of peoples’ lives.
What is important right now is to take a stern decision in this case. There are two distinct issues involved. One is settlement of differences between both the parties. The second is the negative cascading effect of the attack that is two dimensional; death of patients and destruction of public property. The second is a state offence, not something that should be ‘brushed under the carpet.’ Unless and until people realize there is law to which they are answerable and held accountable by- the next incident may be even worse.