Doctors and Lawyers: Protests at Punjab Institute of Cardiology

By Sitara Brooj Akbar

Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.”

Alas, education failed us as a safeguard when hordes of Pakistani lawyers, infuriated over inaction by the government at alleged misbehavior by some doctors toward one of their colleagues, stormed a cardiology hospital in the eastern city of Lahore on the 12th of December.

The breach of the hospital boundaries set off clashes with the site staff, patients and guards in turn leading to three deaths, two of which were female patients at the hospital’s emergency ward who passed when paramedics fled for safety. The protest also left heart patients unattended for over twelve hours. According to local authorities the mob damaged medical equipment and wards and many patients had to be relocated to other hospitals around the city. Some lawyers carried weapons and fired air shots while others torched vehicles and blocked the entry of ambulances, spreading even more panic and chaos.

The protesters involved in the attack said they were triggered to act by a viral video made by a doctor, mocking them through reciting provocative poetry and belittling commentary. They then live-streamed on the way to attack Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC) as they walked toward the hospital. In one such video, a lawyer is seen challenging the doctors, announcing they had invited their own deaths and could not escape the wrath that was about to descend on them “We will put stunts into you now” he is heard yelling.

This was a dark day in Pakistan’s history, which left the country appalled and at a loss for words. To think that this conflict arose between some of Pakistan’s most well-educated citizens, people who are supposed to light the way for the rest of the nation, is education not supposed to teach us how to be better people? To build upon our morals, ethics and give us a sense of responsibility towards those less fortunate around us.

This “protest” is surely among some of the lowest moments in our history, such events do not even take place in times of war among bitter enemies and yet it was the appointed guardians of our human rights that haphazardly murdered and spread terror in broad daylight at the place where some of the most sensitive patients come to find comfort and hope. The people who mobbed PIC should be given no comfort or leniency, in very simple words they reflect the darkest among us as humans and Pakistanis and by now should be charged with the acts that they have carried out in broad daylight in front of the world.

No matter what they say now or the poor excuses of remorse and apologies some might put forth, there is and never will be any justification for this tragedy. No matter how angered they were about something so trivial, one fails to understand how they came to the conclusion that this was how to expel such rage. Out of the above hundred men and women both old and young we can see in the footage, not one of them had a spine or soul?

Across media we can see recordings of some people beating up passerbys including children and the elderly. We claim to be a Muslim majority nation yet do we know so little of the religion we claim for ourselves? In the ever-relevant words of Hazrat Abu Bakr al-Siddiq (ra), the first Caliph “You must not mutilate dead bodies; do not kill a woman, a child, or an aged man; do not cut down fruitful trees; do not destroy inhabited areas; do not slaughter any of the enemies’ sheep, cow or camel except for food; do not burn date palms, nor inundate them” Can we truly label ourselves as such if we do not understand such fundamental teachings as human rights. Do we follow the religion that places the sanctity of human life above all else?

This event also leads one to think about the unrest throughout the year as a whole. In a world that has been rocked by protests across continents and in cities Hong Kong, Paris, Washington, Kashmir, Barcelona, Beirut and now Lahore should we not ask ourselves how far should these movements go? Do we draw the line at the loss of human life or is it justified if the act is for the greater good? What about the millions lost to economy and all the disruption in everyday life. Is this truly the only path towards achieving peace eventually or could there perhaps be another way to inspire change?

Hopefully the new decade will begin with us making a turn in terms of the strife and lead to a more prosperous world through tolerance, respect and understanding and while perusing this dream of an extraordinary tomorrow; we’ll build a better world today.

If civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships – the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together, in the same world at peace.”

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