(LAHORE, Pakistan) — Dozens of lawyers attacked the Punjab Institute of Cardiology in Pakistan in an escalation of a feud that started last month in a dispute over the care of a lawyer’s relative.
Three patients died during Wednesday’s incident after they were left unattended while others, including attendants and nurses, were injured when lawyers went amok to settle a score between their group and doctors who took part in a brawl at the same hospital last month.
“They came prepared,” and had planned for a fight, Dr. Salman Haseeb, President of the Punjab Young Doctors Association, said.
The previous attack on the hospital was repulsed by hospital security, but this time, “the lawyers overwhelmed us by their sheer numbers,” he said.
As a result, the emergency room, wards and other parts of the hospital were ransacked, causing a loss of Rs 70 million ($989,000).
“We called everyone for help and threw the lawyers out,” Haseeb said.
While Asim Cheema, President of the Lahore Bar Association, expressed remorse over the incident, he said that the lawyers’ protest was initially peaceful until doctors allegedly started throwing stones at them as they walked into the institute. He said the lawyers were simply retaliating, but he did not explain the deaths nor the thousands of dollars in damage to the equipment caused by the lawyers.
Doctors disputed his account, who said that the lawyers “came prepared” with the intention to ransack the institute and “to attack the doctors.”
The initial fight took place in November when a group of lawyers came to the hospital for a medical consultation for one of the lawyers’ mother, according to Haseeb. Doctors told ABC News that the lawyers went to pick up medication from the institute, but refused to wait in line and jumped the queue. After being denied the medicine and being forced to leave, violence broke out.
Lahore government official Kamran Ali, according to Reuters, said the lawyers become violent after doctors shared videos on social media of beating the lawyers up.
A country-wide strike was observed Friday by lawyers to protest the arrest of 40 people in connection with the incident.
Their cases have been registered under various charges, including terrorism and unintentional murder by an anti-terrorism court in Pakistan.
Zeeshan Asghar, the investigating police officer, said that the “charges against the lawyers are being investigated.”
Eyewitnesses allege they saw inhuman scenes that day, with people running for protection or trying to protect their patients from harm’s way.
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