Lawyers in Pakistan announced a nationwide strike on Friday to protest the arrest of colleagues who went on a deadly rampage at the Punjab Institution of Cardiology (PIC) in Lahore on Wednesday, killing several patients in the process.
Pakistani lawyers answered a call from their Bar Council (PBC) to boycott courtrooms on Friday and demand the “immediate release” of those arrested in Lahore.
The PBC said the strike was a response to “partial and biased conduct of the local police and the administration of Lahore against the lawyers as well as action taken by the Islamabad High Court against the Secretary-General, Islamabad High Court Bar Association.”
The latter was a reference to charges of “professional misconduct and contempt” against officers of the Islamabad bar, which has been attempting to portray the hospital atrocity as the fault of doctors who provoked the lawyers into launching their deadly attack. Top lawyers have also blamed the government of Punjab and the administration of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan for ignoring the simmering conflict between doctors and lawyers until it escalated into violence.
The Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan (SCBAP) issued a statement railing against the “goons that have been hiding in the ranks of the medical community that was the root cause of the reaction which provoked the whole legal fraternity.” It denounced the arrest of rioting lawyers in Lahore as “unlawful” and accused the Punjab police of torturing them.
In short, it’s everyone’s fault except the lawyers who smashed hospital equipment, drove doctors away from intensive care wards, and allegedly tore the oxygen masks off critically ill patients.
250 lawyers have been charged with “treason” for the PIC attack and will be tried by anti-terrorism courts. The bar associations dismiss these terrorism charges as insulting and excessive, but Pakistani law explicitly provides for treating violent assaults on government buidlings as treason.
“We have arrested some lawyers and no one linked to the attack on the hospital will be spared,” Lahore police chief Zulfikar Hameed vowed on Friday as he deployed additional forces to protect PIC during the lawyer strike.