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LAHORE, Feb 1: A pro-democracy activist was slapped by the security guard of a private college on the canal in Muslim Town while distributing anti-government flyers among students, witnesses said.

Rahim Haq, a teaching assistant at the Punjab University’s Department of Sociology, was trying to mobilise students of the college owned by the Lahore’s nazim for a pro-democracy rally on The Mall scheduled for Saturday when the security guard tried to stop him and his fellows from spreading the message.

Haq told Dawn that he was handing out flyers along with three other people when the security guard approached them and warned to leave. “I told him that I was on the public property and had every right to be there, when he suddenly launched into me and struck me three times in the face, breaking my glasses.”

The guard himself confessed to this reporter having beaten up the activist on the instructions of the college administration in view of a crackdown on student politics. He claimed that Mr Haq had leaned over the college gate and was on the college property.

He expressed regret at the incident, but said the college administration had forbidden the distribution of any political material on the campus.

“Additionally, Mr Haq had been handing out flyers to women, which could not be allowed.”

One of the flyers being distributed by the activists called for the the restoration of the pre-Nov 3 judiciary, lifting of curbs on the media and denounced the suppression of students unions. It also demanded the Musharraf regime to hold clean and transparent elections on Feb 18. The second flyer exhorted students to join hands with civil society and lawyers in their protest at Nasser Bagh.

When Mr Haq approached the Muslim Town police for lodging a report of the assault on him, they told him to get a medical report from a public hospital. The police told this reporter later in the evening that they had not decided as yet whether to register an FIR or not. “We are waiting for the medical report,” SHO Naveed Arshad said.

Legal experts said the police were duty bound to register a case against the assailants even if the victim did not have any injuries and wounds. He denied the allegation that the police were reluctant to register the case because they had been told not to do so by the owner or administration of the college. —Issam Ahmed