Pakistan lawyers strike over arrest of colleagues in assault

LAHORE, PAKISTAN (AP) — Pakistani lawyers went on strike yesterday, demanding authorities release dozens of their colleagues arrested after storming a hospital this week in the eastern city of Lahore and beating up doctors and medical staff there. Three patients at the cardiology hospital died when physicians and medics left them unattended for several hours on Wednesday to escape the mob of about 500 lawyers who had descended on the facility.

Police used tear gas and eventually brought the situation under control but much of the hospital was trashed.

The lawyers claim they were enraged by alleged misbehaviour by some of the doctors at the state-owned hospital toward one of their colleagues last month. Authorities on Thursday raised charges of treason against 250 of the lawyers. So far, 80 of those charged have been arrested, police said.

The harsh charges reflect the authorities’ frustration over the violence. The incident drew nationwide condemnation and the government said those linked to the violence will be tried in anti-terrorism courts and that maximum punishment will be sought for them.

The lawyers claim the police took one-sided action against their colleagues.

The Pakistani Bar Council, the country’s main representative body of lawyers, called the strike yesterday, the last day of the workweek in Pakistan. The lawyers said they would consider whether to continue the strike after the weekend.

Police officers gather next to a burning police vehicles that were set on fire by angry lawyers during clashes in Lahore, Pakistan on December 11. PHOTO: AP