Hospital assault in Lahore: 46 lawyers sent on judicial remand

A lawyer throws a trash bin toward police near a vehicle set on fire outside the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC) in Lahore on Dec. 11, 2019. (REUTERS)
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Updated 12 December 2019

Hospital assault in Lahore: 46 lawyers sent on judicial remand

  • Attackers will not be spared, says the Punjab chief minister
  • Lahore High Court Bar Association vows to act against the culprits, “if they are lawyers”

LAHORE: An anti-terrorism court sent 46 lawyers, accused of attacking the biggest cardiac health facility in the country’s eastern province of Punjab, to jail on a 14-day judicial remand on Thursday.
The lawyers were arrested after they targeted the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC) on Wednesday to avenge their colleagues who were allegedly roughed up by the PIC staff in November.
The protesters forced their way into the hospital and destroyed medical equipment at the facility.
They also targeted vehicles in the parking area, set a police mobile on fire and terrorized the staff who left their patients unattended and rushed to safety.
Three patients reportedly lost their lives since they did not get medical attention on time.
On Thursday, the arrested lawyers were brought to an anti-terrorism court where the prosecution demanded 15 days of police custody while the defense counsel claimed the accused were innocent and implicated in false cases.
After hearing the arguments, the court announced 14 days of judicial remand and sent the lawyers to jail.
“We are waiting for the government’s response and see how it deals with the issue,” Dr. Salman Hasseb Chaudhary, Secretary General of Grand Health Alliance, told Arab News. “We demand arrest of all culprits who attacked the hospital. It is an act that is not even allowed in a war. The doctors will not go on strike and all facilities will remain open for public,”
The legal community, on the other hand, boycotted courtroom proceedings across the province in response to a call given by the Punjab Bar Council.
In the morning, lawyers gathered at the Kayani Hall of the High Court Bar and strongly condemned the lodging of police complaints against them and the arrest of their fraternity members.
The lawyers formed a joint committee that comprised representatives of the Lahore Bar Association, the Lahore High Court Bar Association, the Punjab Bar Council and the Pakistan Bar Council.
The lawyers’ bodies also demanded an inquiry into the matter.
“The lawyers started the procession from Mall road,” said their press release, “crossed Jail road and reached the PIC but the police did not intervene. They [the police] were silent spectators even when stones were pelted from both sides. It needs a thorough inquiry and we demand judicial inquiry. It is a very unfortunate incident, and we will take action against those who resorted to firing and burnt the police vehicle, if they are lawyers.”
Meanwhile, the Punjab government deployed Rangers after Wednesday’s incident near the PIC and Lahore High Court buildings.
Prime Minister Imran Khan, who ordered an inquiry into the incident, directed the provincial authorities to take stern action against all those who were involved in the attack.
“Those responsible for the PIC [incident] would not be spared and taken to task. The law will take its course and an enquiry into the matter has been initiated. The killing of three patients is deplorable,” Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar said in a statement issued to the foreign media on Thursday.
In another related development, lawyers went to the Lahore High Court and demanded the release of their accused colleagues. Their case has been fixed for tomorrow (Friday), and Justice Anwarul Haq will hear their petition.

FM Qureshi dismisses reports of diplomatic friction, says Pakistan, Saudi close friends and allies

Updated 18 min 12 sec ago

FM Qureshi dismisses reports of diplomatic friction, says Pakistan, Saudi close friends and allies

  • Says his OIC statement was decontextualized and used for ‘political point scoring’ by opposition parties 
  • Praises Saudi Arabia for always being Pakistan’s ‘supporter and well-wisher’ 

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi categorically denied on Friday that there was any diplomatic tension between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, saying that the two countries enjoyed strong and exemplary relationship since they had always been close friends and allies. 

Qureshi made the statement on Geo News, a local television channel, during an interview in which he was asked about his recent comments on the Saudi-led Organization of Islamic Cooperation in which he had said that his country would raise the Kashmir issue outside the framework of the inter-governmental Muslim organization if a conference of OIC foreign ministers was not held on Kashmir.

His statement was immediately condemned by opposition politicians who described it as “irresponsible” and reminded the government that Pakistan’s relations with Saudi Arabia were critically important. 

Discussing the situation, Qureshi said that the opposition had decontextualized his statement and was indulging in “political point scoring.” 

“After the United Nations, where we have taken up the Kashmir issue three times in the last one year, the second biggest forum is the OIC,” he explained. “The OIC has consistently maintained a historic position over the issue. It also established a contact group that releases joint communiques focusing on rights violations in occupied Kashmir.” 

However, he added that the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers was a relevant forum to discuss the challenges faced by Muslims around the world. It was also the best platform to discuss “the anti-Muslim sentiments prevailing in India.” 

“I am, therefore, respectfully asking that forum to understand the sentiments of the people of Pakistan and Kashmir,” he continued. 

Qureshi denied that Saudi Arabia had somehow resisted Pakistan’s requests on Kashmir, saying he was particularly thankful to the Saudi foreign minister who raised fine points while addressing the issue from the OIC forum. 

“Saudi Arabia is our supporter and well-wisher,” he continued. “I know how many Pakistanis live and work in the Kingdom. I am also aware of the fact that the Saudi authorities have helped us in difficult situations, and I am going to reiterate that defending the Saudi land is like a sacred responsibility for us, and we are going to do that even by putting our own lives in danger. It is important, however, that they should also heed the desires of our people.” 

He maintained that he only sought the meeting of OIC foreign ministers since it was going to have a major diplomatic impact, adding that anything the participants said during the congregation was going to resonate with people around the world. 

“One only makes such demands while dealing with close friends,” he noted. “Such demands are not made in relationships with distances.”