Pakistan police hunting Imran Khan's nephew allegedly at lawyers' rampage in hospital

Ben Farmer
Paramedic staff members participate in a candelight vigil for the victims who lost their lives during an attack by a group of lawyers on Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC), in Lahore on December 13, 2019 - AFP

Police said they are hunting Imran Khan's nephew after he took part in a lawyers' protest against hospital doctors in Pakistan which saw three patients die after medical staff fled the violence.

Hassan Niazi was one of around 250 black suited-lawyers in a protest that descended into a rampage through the cardiac hospital in Lahore.

Government officials earlier this week said the protest had been sparked by lawyers' accusations that one of their comrades had been beaten by a group of doctors.

Police said they had raided Mr Niazi's home after the unrest was widely condemned as hooliganism. Three patients died as intensive care patients were abandoned by doctors and nurses fleeing the mob.

Television reports showed some of the lawyers armed with handguns while riot police fired tear gas to try to quell the mob. There is no suggestion that Mr Niazi had a gun. 

Lawyers could be seen standing on the bonnet of a burning police vehicle and scuffling with officers. Lawyers inside the hospital smashed doors, windows and equipment. Mr Niazi could be seen in photographs and video of Wednesday's trouble, but The Telegraph has seen no footage suggesting Mr Niazi was involved in these actions. 

"His residence in Lahore was raided by the police last night and also this morning to arrest him, but he was not found there and has possibly gone into hiding," a police spokesman, told the BBC.

 But the police account was questioned after witnesses said Mr Niazi had been seen being apprehended during the protest and being led off. Mr Niazi himself appeared to apologise for taking part in the protest outside Lahore's Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC).

“After watching this clip I feel ashamed of myself,” a message on his Twitter account said after sharing footage of the unrest. “This is murder!!! My support and protest was limited to initiation of legal action against the concerned doctors. I only stand for peaceful protests. It’s sad day and I condemn my own self for supporting this protest now.”  

Pakistan's main opposition bloc, the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) called for his immediate arrest.

"They said that the police raided the residence of Imran Khan's nephew, but he was not found,” spokeswoman Marriyum Aurangzeb said, according to Dawn newspaper.

“There is no case registered against Hassaan Niazi despite his clear involvement in the incident. He must be arrested immediately. The incident must be thoroughly probed and the hospital unsealed," she said.

The violence this week was initially sparked by an earlier incident, in which doctors allegedly beat a lawyer at the hospital when he would not queue with other patients, according to a Reuters report. 

The lawyers were particularly angry that the doctors filmed and shared the beating on social media, Lahore government official Kamran Ali said.