Three cardiac patients die as lawyers protest turns violent in Lahore

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By Muhammad Luqman

Pakistan’sPrime
Minister Imran Khan and Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar have taken notice of
a violent protest by lawyers at Lahore’s Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC),
during which three patients lost their lives.

“Three
patients including an elderly woman died after doctors failed to provide them
timely treatment and remained engaged in averting the  (lawyers’) assault,” Punjab Health Minister
Yasmeen Rashid told press conference on Wednesday evening.

After hours
of continued violence, police arrested dozens of lawyers and unblocked city’s
busy Jail road. Punjab government also summoned extra troops of Rangers
personnel to maintain law and order, English newspaper,Daily Dawn reported.

FederalHuman
Rights Minister Shireen Mazari tweeted that a total of 40 lawyers were arrested
but four female lawyers were later released. “More arrests will
follow,” she wrote.

The lawyers
were protesting against a video that went viral on social media yesterday, in
which a doctor is seen narrating an encounter with some lawyers in front of a
group. According to the doctor in the video, a group of lawyers had gone to the
inspector general of police and told him to charge “two doctors”
under Section 7 of ATA. He narrated that the IG had refused while the lawyers
had urged him to press charges, saying “they could save face” that
way.

A large
number of lawyers gathered outside PIC on Wednesday to protest against the
“mocking video”. The protest, however, turned violent as the lawyers
initially closed off entry and exit points to the hospital.

The
protesters also damaged equipment inside and broke windows of the hospital as
well as cars parked outside. Protesters smashed doors of emergency theatres and
staff had to run out to save themselves, according to media reports.

Patients,
some in ambulances, were unable to reach the hospital while those receiving
treatment were left unattended due to the chaos.

The lawyers
also attacked media personnel on the site with stones.

An eyewitness
outside the Services Hospital told that a group of lawyers had fired outside
the hospital. He added that the lawyers were cursing police officials who were
trying to control the situation.

Punjab
Information Minister Fayyazul Hasan Chauhan, who had arrived at the hospital,
said that “lawyers had tried to kidnap” him. In a video, he can be
seen being manhandled by a group of protesting lawyers.

Police used
tear gas and resorted to baton charges in an attempt to disperse the lawyers,
who had gathered at the hospital in large numbers. The president and secretary
of the Lahore High Court Bar Association also arrived at PIC to convince the
angry lawyers to leave the hospital.

Lahore
Police DIG Operations, who had also arrived at the hospital, said that those
who took the law into their own hands will be dealt with strongly.

Meanwhile,
Young Consultants Association (YCA) announced a nationwide strike after the
violent protest. President of the YCA Dr Hammad Butt said that no consultant
will be on duty  across Punjab on
Thursday. “The vandalism by lawyers is highly condemnable,” he said.

Chief Minister Buzdar, who was in Islamabad to hold meetings with PTI MNAs, assured that action will be taken against those responsible for the violence. He said that he was headed to Lahore and had directed the authorities to submit a report of the incident.

The chief
minister ordered an investigation into the attack and summoned a report from
the Lahore Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) and provincial secretary of
specialised health and medical education. The premier summoned a report from
the provincial chief secretary and inspector general.

When asked
why the government had not taken notice of tensions between doctors and lawyers
earlier, Buzdar said that the matter had been resolved.

Prime
minister’s special assistant Firdous Ashiq Awan condemned the violence and
said: “Lawlessness is not acceptable at any cost.

“The
manhandling of provincial minister Fayyazul Hassan Chauhan, vandalism and
harassment of poor patients and their attendants is extremely condemnable and
regrettable,” she tweeted.

“Those
who wear the uniform of law will have to obey the law.”

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