off record
Shaukat Ali Jawaid

Senior lawyer’s
praiseworthy response
to PIC incident

It is heartening to note that fifty five senior lawyers of Pakistan have taken a principled stand keeping up professional ethics and written an open letter to Pakistan Bar Council to take action against members of the legal profession who stormed the Punjab Institute of Cardiology on December 11th 2019 and brought a bad name to the country.

These lawyers include many distinguished personalities of the profession like Abid Hasan Minto, Makhdoom Ali Khan, Raza Kazim, Tariq Mahmood, Mahmood Awan, Mustafa Ramaday and many others. They have asked for proper proceedings after conducting investigations strictly in accordance with law without undermining the constitutionally guaranteed rights of the accused or affording them exceptional treatment. They have condemned the attack on PIC by members of the legal fraternity.

The letter excerpts from which have been published in Daily Dawn1 reads that “We are anguished because it is inconceivable and unconstitutional that those licensed to practice the law and uphold its majesty could choose to attack a hospital irrespective of reasons, provocations or motivation. As officers of the law, we are obliged to not only do our utmost to respect and strictly abide by the law but also pursue the legal process in matters of conflict be it personal or institutional. Allowing degeneration of a conflict leading to violence on others, public property and healthcare facility can never be justified and it grossly violate of the highest standards to which the profession of law holds its practitioners. These actions have sadly brought disrepute to the legal profession as a whole and humiliated the legal fraternity. We believe that the society has conferred great responsibility upon us to act as custodian of rule of law and endowed us with enormous trust by placing on our own shoulders the obligation to regulate ourselves.”

The letter further adds that “Should we fail to hold ourselves to account for legal misconduct of the members of our fraternity, we will not only be in breach of the law but we shall more importantly loose the moral right to self-regulate ourselves and irreparably diminish the highest levels of integrity, respect and esteem the profession of law has been held in since time immemorial”. The authors of the letter have also expressed anguish over the calls for strike against court proceedings by Bar Councils and Bar Associations adding that while right to protest was a constitutional guaranteed right, such right could never be exercised to boycott judicial proceedings in a manner that interfered with judicial business and undermines citizens’ rights to access to justice and the strict obligations of lawyers to their clients, to courts and to public at large under the Pakistan Legal Practitioners and Bar Council Rules 1976. We also note with regret that PBC and different bar associations have not condemned this incident in clear and unequivocal terms. We expect that strict disciplinary action will be taken immediately against all licensed lawyers who participated in this unfortunate incident and penalized by PBC as the top regulatory authority of the legal profession for having grossly breached cannons of professional conduct failing. They have asked the PBC to take affirmative steps to restore the integrity, respect and sanctity of our great profession. The aftermath of the most deplorable PIC attack is a time for introspection and immediate self-accountability. In order to restore honour of our fraternity we must not become apologists for those amongst us misconducting” the letter adds.

Publication of this letter which has been highlighted by the media, one hopes will go a long way in cooling down the tempers among the healthcare professionals. Since the matter is in courts and sub-judice, one would refrain to make any comments but this unfortunate incident does provide us an opportunity to have a critical look at the causes of ever increasing incidents of violence against the doctors and the healthcare facilities. While on one hand the action taken by the young lawyers who went on rampage which resulted in death of quite a few patients under treatment needs to be condemned, on the other hand, the healthcare professionals should also look into their own conduct and behaviour. The video which went viral on the social media which is alleged to have provoked the lawyers to storm the PIC was certainly in a bad taste. Though it is said, it was a much earlier video even then such things should have been avoided.

During the whole process, in fact it is the provincial government of Punjab which has failed miserably. It failed to resolve the simmering differences between the members of medical and legal profession for quite a few days. Not only that when hundreds of lawyers were marching towards the PIC in a procession and it was being shown live on the social media, the government functionaries were sleeping. Had they acted and took measures to stop the lawyers rally even in front of the PIC, blocked their entry inside the hospital, the colossal loss of human lives and hospital infrastructure, instruments, equipment and the cars parked inside which were all damaged could have been avoided. The lawyers could have been asked to express their anger, register protest and then disperse peacefully while efforts should have been initiated to find amicable solution to the issue but alas it never happened. Ever since the PTI has formed the Government, it has been busy with just one agenda of harassing, victimizing, character assassination of its political opponents and forcing the bureaucracy to become approvers in alleged corruption cases against their political opponents. Those who refuse, have been arrested and put behind bars. This has demoralized the bureaucracy and similar is the case with police force. The Rangers which were called in later, should have been ordered to move earlier before it was too late. The provincial government does not seem to realize its responsibilities and have miserably failed to perform its duties proving time and again its incompetence and inexperience.

This is not the first time that someone has stormed a healthcare facility. On one hand the authorities do not provide enough funding to the hospitals while on the other hand the expectations of the patients has increased manifold. In the recent past a similar situation had arisen with a clash between the medical profession and media personnel which somehow was resolved. Over worked, overburdened, long duty hours, lack of conducive and comfortable working environment does at time result in doctors losing temper which results in unfortunate incidents. Since every one coming to the hospital and those from privileged classes like journalists and lawyers want a VIP treatment and protocol, it create further problems for the healthcare professionals. It was even for the first time that a provincial health minister in KPK accompanied by his guards had thrashed and injured a faculty member of a medical college and no action was taken against the Minister. Such incidents then naturally encourage others to indulge in violence.

Members of the medical profession also need to look into their behaviour. There are serious complaints of unethical practices, corruption and commercialization virus has become an epidemic. We have always advocated the concept of self-monitoring and self-accountability by the medical profession. It is high time that like the senior lawyers, some senior respected members of the medical profession should come forward, read the contents of the open letter written by the senior lawyers to the Pakistan Bar Council and try to learn some lesson. They must educate, prevail upon the medical profession in general and the young doctors in particular so that the law and order situation which is often seen at healthcare facilities should come to an end. They must uphold professional ethics, ensure empathy, patient safety, try to eliminate the chances of any medical errors. The importance of Continuous Professional Development can never be over emphasized. It is the duty of each professional, medical profession being no exception to be honest, sincere to the profession they have chosen. Every profession has its own norms and calling and one must be mindful of those.

After the publication of this open letter by senior lawyers, one sincerely hopes that some senior healthcare professionals will also play their role to arrange a meeting between the representatives of both these professions, try to understand each other’s point of view, avoid taking any step which can further aggravate the situation. In the present case, it is the lawyers who have to take the initiative for a peaceful agreement to resolve this issue which is extremely painful which has brought lot of bad publicity to the country at a time while we are struggling to set our house in order after years of terrorist activities. The country has already paid a very heavy price for the terrorist activities which has seriously affected and retarded our economic development and progress.


  1. Lawyers seek action against members for PIC attack. Daily DAWN December 17, 2019. Page-3
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