In Lahore Hospital, It Was Lawyers vs. Doctors. 3 Patients Died. Mob of lawyers attack hospital in Lahore
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Clad in black suits, white shirts and black ties, hundreds of lawyers forced their way into the Lahore cardiology hospital, smashing windows and damaging equipment. Doctors ran for cover, and unattended, panicked patients ran for their lives. The hospital wards were littered with shards of glass and broken furniture.
Riot police used tear gas canisters, water cannons and batons to disperse the intruders. The melee at the hospital, the Punjab Institute of Cardiology, lasted for hours on Wednesday, shocking the country.
In the end, officials said, three patients died amid the chaos. And now at least 80 lawyers have been arrested by Pakistani authorities, while Prime Minister Imran Khan has ordered an investigation.
The lawyers said they were avenging an attack in November by doctors and staff of the hospital, after the lawyers demanded preferential treatment.
Local news media reported that a lawyer visited the hospital, where his relative was being treated, in late November. He ended up arguing with the hospital staff and summoned some colleagues for support. The heated exchange turned violent, and the hospital staff and doctors injured three lawyers at the hospital building, the news reports said.
Afterward, the lawyers tried to have terrorism charges filed against the doctors and have them arrested. The Lahore police tried to mediate between both groups, and no arrests have been made at the lawyers’ behest over that dispute.
This week, lawyers carried out a strike and staged a protest demonstration against the police for failing to arrest the doctors involved in the November incident.
On Wednesday, the lawyers said they decided to protest at the cardiology hospital after they felt provoked by the doctors.
“In any society, no matter what the situation, such an attack on a hospital has never taken place,” said Muhammad Basharat Raja, the Punjab law minister. Paramilitary troops have been deployed at important government buildings in Lahore, the provincial capital, to quell further unrest.
In recent years, lawyers in Pakistan have not shied from resorting to violence and taking the law into their hands. Lawyers have attacked judges over disagreements during court hearings. Clashes with police are frequent.
Pakistani lawyers in general have been emboldened since 2007, when a political opposition protest campaign against the then-military dictator General Pervez Musharraf was spearheaded by lawyers.
Images of lawyers — dressed in their customary black coats and black ties — clashing with the police had assumed iconic status, as Mr. Musharraf struggled to maintain his grip on power and was eventually ousted.
Some of the lawyers involved in Wednesday’s attack said they were moved to act by a viral video by one of the doctors, who mocked and ridiculed them through reciting poetry and belittling remarks.
The lawyers live-streamed the run-up to their attack on the hospital as they walked toward the building. In one video, an unidentified lawyer is seen challenging the doctors, saying the doctors had invited their death and could not escape the wrath of the lawyers.