THE pillage, vandalism and callousness displayed by the lawyers community at Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC) which was instrumental to the death of at least four patients, damage to the hospital and private properties and burning of police vans, had no justification whatsoever. It sent shudders through the nerves of all those who watched the gory drama unfolding on their TV screens and those who expected and believed in a civilized behavior from educated classes, more so from a community which is supposed to uphold rule of law and the constitution. Their attack on PIC was simply ‘gangsterism’ at its worst to say the least. It seemed as if those donning the black coats had gone berserk. No wonder then that all the segments of Pakistani population felt flabbergasted and were unanimous in condemning the despicable indiscretion committed by the lawyers.
The more appalling aspect of the episode was that the Bar Councils and Lawyers Associations instead of expressing remorse at the unruly behaviour of their colleagues not only tried to defend the rampaging lawyers but also gave a call of boycott of courts throughout Pakistan in protest against the arrest of the lawyers. The solidarity shown by the bar councils and lawyers associations with those who pummelled all moral values and laws of the state and the ones arrested for their violent actions is typical of the mafias protecting and supporting each other’s undesirable and illegal activities.
The attack on PIC was pre-planned and not a spontaneous outrage against inappropriate behaviour of the doctors of the Institute. The dispute that occurred between the doctors and lawyers a few days earlier had been settled with the intervention of the authorities. However the lawyers felt incensed by a video that went viral in which a young doctor had made mocking remarks about the lawyers. The lawyers felt their pride and honour besmirched and consequently decided to take revenge. What they did, however, was not justified whatever the provocation. Attack on a hospital is even inconceivable during wars.
The annoying insensitivity of the Bar Councils and Lawyers Associations to the gravity of the situation and resentment that it has created among the people, is inexcusable. It constitutes a national shame. The Bar Councils instead of defending the indefensible actions of the lawyers mob should have issued an apology, offered to assist in ensuring that the law must take its course against all involved in the crime and expressed the determination to initiate action against the hooligans within the community on their own under the Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils Act.
One is left wondering whether it is the same community which has played significant role in the ideological movements in Pakistan, has been in the forefront in opposing dictatorships and fighting for the fundamental rights of the citizens and upholding the independence of judiciary. However it is satisfying to note that there are still conscientious people among the lawyers community who have expressed disgust over the conduct of their fraternity and have apologized to the people of Pakistan and families of the patients who lost their lives as a result of the mayhem perpetrated by the lawyers, on their own behalf and on behalf of the saner elements within the lawyers community. They have also disapproved the position taken on the issue by the Bar Councils and the lawyers associations. The unfortunate reality is that ever since lawyer’s successful movement for restoration of judiciary, the community has become excessively assertive descending into the realm of trade unionism which tends to promote a culture of solidarity among the members of the trade union and consequently no distinction is made between wrong and right. Solidarity among the members of a community is not a bad thing in itself provided it is used for righteous causes and not to support disruptive and violent activities.
We have seen the lawyers indulging in fist-fighting in the court rooms violating their sanctity, locking up the judges in their rooms, attacking their clients, media and even the judges. The most glaring example of the rude and unruly behaviour was when the President of the Multan Bar Council undermined the authority of high judicial offices. But unfortunately neither the government nor the higher judiciary took any punitive action against the lawyers breaching the law and indulging in violence. They succumbed to the blackmail of the lawyer’s community. In case of the Multan Bar Council President, the former CJ Saqib Nisar came to the rescue of lawyer’s fraternity. The groveling disposition of the government and the higher judiciary towards unruly conduct of the lawyers actually encouraged the lawyers to continue with their aggressive and illegal actions. So what happened at PIC Lahore was long time coming.
The redeeming outcome of this regrettable episode is that the Federal and Punjab Governments instead of succumbing to the blackmail of the lawyers community as has been the case in previous incidents of unruly behaviour by the lawyers, has rightly decided to establish the writ of the state and take strict action against the lawyers found guilty of perpetrating the mayhem at PIC as per the law of the land. The government seems determined to end the culture of blackmail and privilege. It is indeed a welcome move by the government to prove its credentials as a proponent of the rule of law and upholder of the writ of the state. The culture of privilege and entitlement has to go if we want rule of law, peace, tranquillity and social harmony in the county.
— The writer is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.