Two FIRs have been registered against more than 250 lawyers who attacked Lahore's Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC), allegedly tortured doctors and attendants, and damaged hospital property and police vehicles.
According to a police document, a copy of which is available with DawnNewsTV, 52 lawyers were arrested in connection with yesterday's incident. They are expected to be presented before an anti-terrorism court in Lahore today.
On Wednesday, lawyers had staged a violent protest at the PIC apparently on a mission to avenge a group of lawyers, who had been beaten up at the PIC a few weeks ago, soon after some video clips went viral on the social media showing some doctors making fun of the lawyers while recalling the incident.
The outraged attackers, mostly young faces dressed in black suits and sporting neckties, spared no one present on hospital premises, where several serious cardiac patients are under treatment at any given time. The situation worsened when a mob stormed into the emergency department, seemingly in search of some doctors. In view of the approaching danger, the doctors fled the scene.
As the condition of some critical patients deteriorated in the absence of doctors, three PIC patients, including a girl and an elderly woman, passed away.
After hours of continued violence, police had arrested dozens of lawyers and unblocked the road. The Punjab government also summoned extra troops of Rangers personnel to maintain law and order.
The First Information Report (FIR) registered on Wednesday on the complaint of the PIC at the Shadman police station named the general secretary of the Lahore Bar Association Malik Maqsood Khokhar, vice president of the LBA Ijaz Basra and LBA presidential hopeful Rana Intizar among those who were leading the lawyers, provoking them and giving them the instructions that anyone including doctors and medical staff who get in the way should be unable to get away safely.
The FIR was registered on the complaint of Saqib Shafi Sheikh on behalf of the PIC under Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act and Section 322 (manslaughter), 452 (house-trespass after preparation for hurt, assault or wrongful restraint), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter a public servant from discharging their duty),186 (obstructing a public servant in discharge of public functions), 354 (assault or criminal force to a woman with an intent to outrage her modesty), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon), 149 (unlawful assembly), 337-H (2) (punishment for hurt by rash or negligent act) and 395 (punishment for dacoity) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
According to the complainant of the FIR, at around noon on Wednesday, he was at his office when the chauki in charge informed him via the telephone operator that 200-250 male and female lawyers were approaching the PIC.
After receiving the information, he told doctors (at the hospital) about it, who arrived at the emergency ward of PIC to alert security about the approaching lawyers.
Approximately half an hour later, 200-250 lawyers, some of whom were carrying weapons and sticks, forcefully entered the PIC by pushing the large contingent of police posted at the emergency ward gate, which they also broke.
As per the FIR, the lawyers divided into various groups, entered the various PIC departments including the intensive care unit, operation theatre and radiology department where they tortured the security guards, medical staff and doctors present in the vicinity.
They also broke valuable hospital equipment creating fear among the patients at the hospital and their families. As a result of the destruction, they caused at the hospital, the treatment of patients was suspended which led to the deaths of three patients.
Additionally, doctors' cars in the parking lot were also damaged. Two security guards posted at the hospital were tortured by the lawyers and after their condition became serious they were shifted to Services Hospital for treatment.
According to the FIR, one group of lawyers also entered and vandalised the nurses' ward. The lawyer swore at and harassed the staff. The shirt of the nurses' ward in charge was torn and her locket was snatched.
When the situation got out of control, an additional contingent of police arrived at the site and when they attempted to vacate the lawyers from the PIC, some of them started firing.
According to the FIR, the incident lasted approximately two hours. It added that information regarding injuries and damaged equipment will be shared later.
A second FIR, also including ATA sections, was registered on behalf of the police. According to the complainant Inspector Syed Intikhab Hussain, some lawyers with a pistol and sticks approached his police vehicle and with an intention to kill, directly fired on him.
He added that realising the seriousness of the situation, he sat in the car to leave. During this process, his car climbed onto the footpath and lawyers surrounded it and started damaging it.
He said that one of the protesters said to set the police vehicle on fire and to kill the police officials, adding that the protesters fired on the police vehicle and set it on fire.
The case was registered on Wednesday under Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act and Section 290 (public nuisance), 291 (continuance of nuisance after injunction to discontinue), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon), 353 (assault), 324 (attempt to murder), 436 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy house, etc) and 186 (obstructing a public servant in discharge of public functions) of the PPC.
Services remain suspended at PIC
A day after the protests, services at PIC remain suspended with the exception of the coronary care unit (CCU). Meanwhile, clean up at the hospital is underway. Patients have been shifted to other hospitals
The Grand Health Alliance had announced three days of mourning on Wednesday and demanded that a security bill ordinance be put forward in the parliament within 24 hours. They also demanded that Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, Punjab Law Minister Raja Basharat and Punjab Health Minister Yasmin Rashid resign.
Speaking to reporters outside the PIC today, Rashid said she had visited the hospital to show her support with the doctors. She said the government will try to ensure that all those responsible for the violence are given the appropriate punishment.
Meanwhile, the staff of the Mayo Hospital held a walk against the incident.
Lawyers are also staging a strike today against the arrests of those involved in Wednesday's attack and are demanding that they be immediately released. According to the Punjab Bar Council, lawyers will not be in courts today.
A meeting of the lawyers' joint action committee against the arrests was also held today. The members are also meeting with the Lahore High Court Chief Justice designate Mamoon Rashid Sheikh.
What provoked the lawyers?
Witnesses had told Dawn there was chaos as beds were hastily dragged to hideouts, in a few cases the washrooms down the corridor away from the wards, after the mob carrying clubs and rods forced its entry into the government-run hospital.
Prime Minister Imran Khan and Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar took notice of the violent protests.
The protesters claimed that the legal fraternity was provoked by several video clips doing the rounds on social media. They showed some doctors making fun of the lawyers after some hospital staff had thrashed a group of lawyers over a dispute at the PIC.
A more recent video clip that showed a young doctor speaking ‘boastfully’ about his encounter with the lawyers. In this video, he was talking about an FIR registered against doctors, paramedics and security guards of the PIC after they allegedly subjected some lawyers to torture and injured five of them. The lawyers had visited the PIC for treatment of a colleague on Nov 20.
Additional reporting by Kinza Malik and Mohammad Taimoor