Lahore: A Pakistani man was on Wednesday awarded death sentence by a court in Punjab province after being convicted under the country`s controversial blasphemy law.
Muhammad Rafiq was sentenced to death by Additional District and Sessions Judge Malik Riaz Ahmed in Bahawalpur city, 400 km from Lahore.
Rafiq was convicted for committing blasphemy against the companions of Prophet Mohammed.
Rafiq, a resident of Jalalpur Peerwala, was also ordered by the judge to pay a fine of Rs 200,000. A case under the blasphemy law was registered against
Rafiq in February last year.
Police official Chaudhry Safdar said Rafiq was caught by local residents with a wooden slab around his neck that was inscribed with blasphemous remarks about the `Sahaba Ikrams`.
Safdar said Rafiq was shifted from a police station to Bahawalpur prison as a mob wanted to lynch him.
The blasphemy law has been at the centre of a heated debate since a court in Punjab sentenced Asia Bibi, a Christian woman, to death last year for allegedly committing blasphemy against Prophet Mohammed.
Last month, an imam and his son were sentenced to life imprisonment by another court in Punjab after being convicted on blasphemy charges.
Liberals and civil society activists have called for the repeal or amendment of the blasphemy law, saying it is misused to persecute religious minorities or to settle personal or political scores.
Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer was assassinated last month by a police guard who said he was angered by the politician`s opposition to the blasphemy law.
Caving in to pressure from religious hardliners not to change the law, the government has said it has no plans to amend the statute.