The good doctor
February 10 was a day of parallel yet opposing events in the city of Lahore. On the one hand, the metropolis turned festive as the Metro Bus System (MBS), arguably the country’s first rapid mass transit bus project, was inaugurated by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.
On the other hand, in an apparent move to thwart their ‘design’ to protest at the inaugural ceremony of the MBS, police severely thrashed doctors from the Young Doctors Association in front of the Services Hospital in the provincial capital.
With the situation taking a turn for the negative, PPP Deputy Parliamentary Leader in Punjab Assembly Shaukat Basra, women from the civil society and Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf, young lady doctors and a cameraman associated with a private television channel were thrashed by police. The medics’ hunger strike camp outside the Services Hospital was also ransacked in the process.
What probably led to this turn of events was an announcement by the doctors who had been observing the strike unto death. They had decided to stage a demonstration on the occasion of the inauguration of the bus service. However, as they were apparently preparing to leave the camp, police contingents in anti-riot gear and plainclothesmen ‘pounced’ upon them. The authorities thrashed the doctors, both male and female, with batons, kicks and punches. Even passersby and relatives of patients admitted to the hospital were not spared.
What resulted was a clash between a group of medics and the police which came to an end after a number of doctors were taken to a police station.
On the issue, senior Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) leader Pervaiz Rashid accused the YDA of wanting to stop investment in Pakistan in collusion with the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). He accused the young doctors of not being friends of Pakistan and said the true face of young doctors and the PPP had been revealed.
The sequence of events raises a number of questions with regard to how authorities in Pakistan have engaged protesters in general and the YDA in particular. Should such use of force to quell protesters, let alone when those protesters are doctors, be allowed in a civilised society with apparent democratic rule? With doctors protesting for their demands every now and then, should the concerned authorities not take into consideration what they have to say and peacefully negotiate instead of letting the problem fester?
Furthermore, instead of leveling accusations against the doctors of not being friends of Pakistan and implying their collusion with political parties, shouldn’t there instead be a proper and organised investigation in this regard?