Lahore fire
A patient is transferred after angry lawyers staged an attack on a hospital in Lahore, Pakistan, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. Image Credit: AP

Lahore: At least four patients died after lawyers stormed a cardiology hospital in Lahore and scuffled with doctors, forcing them to leave patients in critical condition unattended. Some media reports reported at least 10 deaths among patients after lawyers picked up a row with doctors.

Video clips revealed scenes of violence as protesting lawyers vandalised public property, set a police vehicle on fire and also manhandled Punjab Information Minister Fayyazul Hasan Chauhan, who arrived at Lahore’s Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC) to defuse tensions.

Umar Farooq, a resident of Ghaziabad of Punjab province, whose mother died at the hospital’s emergency ward said, “The incident took my mother’s life after all the doctors and paramedical staff fled for safety in panic.”

Protesters smashed windows and doors of emergency wards, leading to mayhem at the hospital where some patients in serious conditions were left unattended. Police later detained several lawyers on charges of damaging hospital property, beating up doctors and clashing with hospital guards and police.

Authorities say tension had been brewing between the city’s lawyers and doctors since last month, when one of the Lahore lawyers complained that doctors mistreated him when he brought an ailing relative to the hospital. It was unclear what the mistreatment involved.

PM orders inquiry

Prime Minister Imran Khan and Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar immediately took notice of the violent protest. Interior Minister Ijaz Shah also condemned the incident and said a high-powered inquiry will be conducted and no perpetrator would be spared.

“Lawlessness is not acceptable at any cost” said Firdous Ashiq Awan, adviser to PM on information. “The manhandling of provincial minister Fayyazul Hassan Chauhan, vandalism and harassment of poor patients and their families is highly condemnable and deplorable,” she tweeted. “Those who wear the uniform of law will have to obey the law.”

Terming the incident “intolerable”, Punjab chief minister said, “No one is above the law. To create hurdles for patients receiving treatment is inhumane and a criminal act.” Action against those responsible would be taken “without discrimination”, he added.

Citizens demand justice

Netizens expressed shock and horror over the incident after videos of violence emerged on social media, and called for immediate arrest of the lawyers involved in the chaos. “This is by no means a ‘peaceful protest’. All involved should be arrested and barred from legal practice forever,” Barrister Mehrunissa Sajjad said on Twitter.

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader and lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan said action must be taken against the rioters. He called the incident “regrettable”.

“Sad day to be a Pakistani lawyer!” tweeted Barrister Taimur Malik. He said those who attacked the hospital couldn’t be called lawyers. “All professionals should distance themselves from such miscreants and the Bar Council and authorities should take immediate action against the culprits,” he urged.

Lawyer and activist Jibran Nasir, said he was “ashamed to be a member of the Pakistani legal fraternity today. If the Pakistan, Punjab and District Bar Councils do not immediately cancel licenses of those black coats involved in this attack then what credibility do our Bars have?”