Tag Archives: Lahore High Court

Inside the Lahore High Court (2)

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By Farkhanda Qaiser

For the first few minutes, we couldn’t understand what was going on in the court room. There was a lot of hustle and bustle, because more doctors kept pouring in.

As there was no more seating space so they stood in front of us. This greatly hampered our view so we decided to get up from our chairs and move ahead. This proved to be a more tedious job than I had expected. After several ‘Excuse mes’ and ‘Sorrys’ I finally reached at a place where I could see the face of the Judge and hear someone speaking. The voice was very sober and confident. It was presenting arguments in favor of the Punjab Government. Therefore I guessed it to be that of Additional Advocate General, Mr. Faisal Zaman. He was pleading the court to close the case as doctors had called off the strike so there was nothing left to argue on.

At that time, another voice intervened saying that there were still four doctors behind bars who had been falsely booked under Section 302 of PPC in connection with the death of a child at a government hospital. I tried to guess this low-pitched and restrained voice. As I had been avidly following talk shows and press conferences regarding doctors’ issue for the last many days, so I was well acquainted with the faces of prominent members of YDA (Young Doctors’ Association) Punjab. However in this packed crowd, I stood no chance of seeing the faces of the people who were talking, especially because some 6-feet tall doctors wearing black armbands were standing right in front of me. One of them even held an ‘Ophthalmology’ book. This sight assured me that doctors and books are kind of inseparable even when these doctors are striking and attending a hearing in a courtroom. Wow this is called dedication. *salutes*

Coming back to the unknown voice which was pleading the doctors’ case. After listening to it for a couple of more minutes, I concluded that this voice seemed to resemble that of Dr. Nasir Abbas – the General Secretary of YDA Punjab.

Here someone intruded declaring that no application had been submitted regarding the bail petition of the doctors in lock-up; so this matter could not be discussed in court. Therefore, the revered Judge ordered Raja Zulqarnain – the lawyer of doctors– to submit the relevant documents immediately.

Then the Dr-Nasir-Abbas-voice implored the court to provide justice to his fellow doctors without any undue delay. To this, the Honorable Judge replied that the court would make sure that no one’s liberty is impinged illegally. He repeatedly assured the doctors that no injustice would be done to them. Further he said that the bail petition would be heard later in the day after the required documents had been completed.

With this, the short hearing came to an end and also the guess-the-voice game I had been playing all throughout.

As the people slowly started to move out of the congested space, I caught a glimpse of the President YDA – Dr Hamid Butt, who was in deep conversation with some other doctors.

I also saw Dr. Izhar Chaudhry, who represents Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) and is an Anatomy demonstrator at King Edward Medical University. He taught us the Upper Limb region in first year and was an excellent teacher. I wanted to meet up with him but lost him in the crowd and did not catch sight of him again.

As I was moving out, I spotted a young female lawyer dressed in white shalwar kameez and a black coat (yes, she was wearing a coat even in this severe heat). She had warm eyes and looked much harried for some reason. I don’t know why but I asked her a very simple question.

“What will happen now?” I asked – referring obviously to the YDA case.

She looked up from the pile of papers in her hands. At first agitated at being disturbed; but then perhaps she noticed my anxious expression and her voice softened,

“Don’t worry. All will be fine. Your case will be heard in the afternoon.” She comforted me.

And weird as it may sound, this stranger had managed to comfort me.

At that moment, it struck me that after all doctors and lawyers were not much different. If the job of one was to treat the physical wounds of their patients then the other solved the material problems of their clients. Both cajoled and soothed their subjects. Their methods may be dissimilar but their intent was the same – to cause well-being of people.

With this thought, I exited the courtroom of Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan. Outside, the narrow corridor was filled with groups of doctors chatting away and discussing their next strategy. Most of them were of the view that they would stay back till the next hearing. Some female House Officers had decided to visit the canteen to pass their time. Others were still discussing the case. They sounded very hopeful and trusted the superior judiciary to give a fair verdict.

As I moved out to the vast ground, I noticed two familiar faces so I went to greet them. They were PGs (post graduates) from the South Medicine Ward of Mayo Hospital. Having just arrived, they were clueless about the proceedings of the case so they asked me for details which I duly provided them.

After that I saw a huge group of doctors clad in their overalls standing in the middle of the ground. Some of the leader-doctors were addressing them. One of them was Dr. Amir Bandesha – President YDA PIC (Punjab Institute of Cardiology). After he had finished talking, I stepped forward. At that time, he caught sight of me and guessed that I wanted to say something. So he alighted from the stairs and came to stand in front of me. This simple gesture really moved me. It showed that the YDA leaders were very concerned about the opinions of their fellow doctors.

I asked him about the future strategy of YDA. Replying to which he said, at present they were primarily concerned about the release of their innocent colleagues. Following which they would resume their struggle for the demand of a proper service structure for doctors. Then it was time for me to leave so I thanked Dr. Bandesha for hearing me out and headed towards the gate of Lahore High Court.

Overall, this had been a great experience with a positive outcome which was announced later in the day. Yes the four doctors were released on bail and were given a very warm welcome by their colleagues.

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Inside the Lahore High Court (1)

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By Farkhanda Qaiser

After having seen huge courtrooms in dramas and movies, I expected the Lahore High Court to be much like that. However I was in for alot of surprises when I entered this place for the first time in my life today. The occasion was the hearing of the YDA (Young Doctors’ Association) case in Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan’s court.

Lahore High Court

Despite the fact that I reached the courtroom as early as 9 AM, it was jam packed. Mostly the audience consisted of young doctors wearing their white overalls whereas lawyers struggled to find a vacant seat in this vibrant crowd. The room itself was a very small one with only 3 rows of chairs at the back for the audience so most of the people were standing shoulder to shoulder in the immense heat of July. In the center was a round table with chairs for the lawyers whose cases were to be heard that day. The table was littered with piles of legal documents and law books. And in the front of this all was the podium on which the Esteemed Judge was to take his place anytime soon. We were all waiting with abated breaths for the case to start. Some of the House Officers sitting with me were from Ganga Ram Hospital and were very vociferous about their support for YDA. Being a Third Year medical student, I probably was the youngest observer in that courtroom. However my spirits were quite high and I was very excited about this little ‘adventure’ of mine.

While we were still discussing the doctors’ strike and the Punjab government’s unprecedented brutal crackdown, suddenly the lawyers sitting in front of us rose up from their seats. As we were quite unaware about the protocol of a courtroom so we were very surprised at this gesture. Then we realized that the Respected Judge had arrived and the lawyers were showing their respect by giving him a standing ovation. Somehow it reminded me of my school days when we used to stand up just like this on the arrival of our teachers to classrooms. But now the scenario was diametrically opposite. The students had been replaced by well-versed solicitors and the teacher was the Judge in whose hands lay the decision of many lives and deaths.

Once the Honorable Judge was seated, the official proceedings started…

To be Continued…

Role of Media in doctors’ alienation from the society

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By Farkhanda Qaiser

“The Lahore High Court ordered young doctors on Saturday to end their strike and resume work in outpatient and inpatient departments of all government hospitals from Monday morning,’’ reads a headline in today’s local newspaper.

Photo credits: Dr Osman Zia

By now, thanks to our vibrant electronic media, most of you must have heard this news already. However special attention must be paid to the phrase ‘from Monday morning,’ which means the court has given the doctors a deadline till Monday to return to their duties. Until then they can’t be accused of contempt of court if they don’t start their work. But our Azad Media wants us to believe otherwise. Infact I was at first shocked and then angered at the way our channels very conveniently omitted the above mentioned phrase and kept on opining in breaking news how the doctors were not following court orders as they were still on strike in OPDs and indoors…!

This is just an illustration of how the facts can be twisted by media and how doing so can color the emotions of the general public. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to start a debate on the conspiracy theory that most of our media has been sold off to the Punjab Government on the doctors’ issue. Being an optimistic Pakistani, I don’t want to believe in this theory because I’ve seen this same media standing up for its freedom countless times. I remember how it reported in detail the visits of the Chief Justice to various bar associations during the lawyer’s movement much to the displeasure of the then government; how the Musharraf regime pressurized the Cable Operators Association of Pakistan (CAP) to take GEO and Aaj TV off their network for criticizing the Pakistan Army; how the Zardari-gilani led elected government wanted gag orders for media in the NRO implementation case…but the media showed persistence throughout and stuck to the principals of free and independent reporting.

On the other hand, we have also seen examples of how the media over-sensationalized simple news items to increase their TRP (Target rating points). The on-going doctors’ strike is sadly such an issue. In the first few days of the peaceful OPD strike, visuals of patients crying due to their sufferings were shown again and again without even mentioning the fact that these patients were being duly treated in the emergencies and indoors…! As the strike progressed, anchorpersons kept on bemoaning that patients were ‘dying’ due to the doctors’ stubbornness. However as I mentioned in my previous blog, an anchorperson on GeoTv admitted the fact that no death had taken place during the first 12 days of the OPD strike until the crackdown on doctors by Punjab police after which doctors were forced to take shelters in their homes to avoid arrests. Moreover the brutal torture of doctors was also not widely reported so much so that when this was brought up in discussions on Social Media, many people refused to believe so. Now in the culmination of the issue when the Lahore High Court has intervened and issued direct orders, we again see how the media is misreporting the facts.

I don’t know why the media is doing this neither am I interested in finding out but all I can see is that due to this irresponsible behavior of the media, the common man is turning against the doctors. He is forced to believe that doctors are selfish souls who are making their patients suffer just for monetary gains. When infact the truth is not so simple and not so gruesome!

Before the situation worsens any further, the media must stop and re-analyze its strategy in unbiased reporting of the facts. Or else we may see mass shunning of doctors by civil society and social organizations as happened in India. During the Junior Doctors’ strike in Rajasthan last year, the milkmen discontinued the supply of milk to doctors while the trade associations closed their shops to show displeasure against the Residents. Thankfully the state of affairs in Pakistan has not reached that level yet but it could soon be heading towards the social alienation of doctors if the media does not watch itself.

Having said that, I also believe that the doctors must re-define their policy as well. They shouldn’t at any cost disobey the orders of LHC because doing so will further tarnish their image in the eyes of the general public which firmly believes in this independent judiciary. However this doesn’t mean that the doctors should give up their just demand of service structure. Instead they should find an alternative way to lodge their protest. For instance setting up free medical camps outside government hospitals; wearing black armbands to show their displeasure with the Punjab Government for reneging on its promises and also doing awareness seminars all over Pakistan to explain to the civil society how a proper service structure for doctors would eventually improve the healthcare system. What purpose would this serve? It would unite the doctors, civil society and media against the government. Because under the present circumstances, the doctors can’t hope to win their battle alone. And even if they do, it’ll be a very uphill task in which the respect of this noble profession may be lost. Are the doctors willing to pay that price?

P.S. I would clarify here that I’m not against doctors’ strikes in OPDs as long as they are serving a purpose and are for a long-term benefit to the healthcare system. But in the present scenario, a continued strike would further alienate doctors and that’s why I think it should be called off.