A lawyer throws trash bin towards police near a vehicle set on fire outside the Punjab Institute of Cardiology in Lahore on Wednesday. Reuters
At least four critical patients died as lawyers on Wednesday ran amok and destroyed parts of the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC) Lahore protesting a viral video of a doctor.
For several hours, nearly 400 lawyers beat everyone including policemen, even attendants of patients and passersby and torched a police van.
Punjab Information Minister Fayyazul Hassan Chohan was also assaulted by lawyers when he came there to calm down the situation.
The members of the Lahore Bar Association (LBA) broke into the medical facility and damaged its intensive care unit and other properties.
Doctors left the facility to save themselves from the wrath.
Grand Health Alliance Chairman Dr Salman Haseeb confirmed the number of deaths.
These patients were in critical condition and were left attended after the lawyers barged inside emergency wards.
The lawyers were protesting against a video that went viral on social media on Monday, 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 (IGP) and told him to charge “two doctors” under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA).
He narrated that the IGP 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 to protest 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.
They smashed doors of emergency theatres and staff had to run out to save themselves.
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, injuring some of them and damaging their cameras.
Police used tear gas and baton charge in an attempt to disperse the lawyers. Lahore Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Police, Operations, arrived at the hospital and said that those who took the law into their own hands will be dealt with strongly.
Police later detained several lawyers on charges related to damaging hospital property, beating up doctors and clashing with hospital guards and police.
Prime Minister Imran Khan ordered an investigation into the incident.
Imran Khan called an emergency of his key cabinet members to ponder over the situation.
Punjab Chief Minister Buzdar, who was in Islamabad to hold meetings with ruling party MP, 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.
Prime minister’s aide 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. Those who wear the uniform of law will have to obey the law.”
Raja Bisharat, provincial law minister, told reporters that authorities had ordered a probe into the incident. “The government will take stern action against those involved in attacking the hospital and beating the doctors,” he said.
Fayaz-ul-Hasan Chohan, provincial information minister, said he was also beaten by the protesting lawyers when he reached the hospital to assess the situation. “Hospitals are not attacked even when there is a war but today lawyers attacked a hospital and caused problems for the patients,” he said.
Chohan said a group of lawyers also tried to kidnap him when he reached the hospital, where lawyers were beating doctors and clashing with police. “Now the situation is under out control,” he said.
Young Consultants Association (YCA) announced a nationwide strike after the violent protest.
In a terse three-line email, accompanied by the words "urgent", the embassy in Islamabad on Thursday recommended its nationals and French companies temporarily leave Pakistan, because of "serious threats".
'The last press interview by our honourable Chief Minister was full of discrepancies which had led to false propagation of the motive behind our protests and the response of the government to it. Hence it needs clarification'
'Serious patients will not be left untreated as the senior doctors have not stopped the emergency treatment'
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One of the injured was a student at the university, while the rest were not, Grambling State posted on Twitter. The school student was "treated for non-life-threatening injuries", and the person killed was not enrolled at the university.