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updated 12/12/2010 10:22:52 AM ET 2010-12-12T15:22:52

Pakistani authorities have arrested a doctor on suspicion of violating the country's contentious blasphemy law by throwing away a business card of a man who shared the name of Islam's prophet, Muhammad, police said Sunday.

The blasphemy law has been widely criticized by human rights groups following the case of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death last month for insulting Islam. Critics say the law should be amended or repealed because it is often used to settle grudges, persecute minorities and fan religious extremism.

Naushad Valiyani, a Muslim doctor in the southern city of Hyderabad, was arrested Friday after a complaint was lodged with police alleging his actions had insulted the Prophet Muhammad, said regional police chief Mushtaq Shah.

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The case began Friday when Muhammad Faizan, a pharmaceutical company representative, visited Valiyani's clinic and handed out his business card. He said when the doctor threw the card away, Faizan went to police and filed a complaint that noted his name was the same as the prophet's.

Shah said police were investigating whether Valiyani should be charged with blasphemy.

Dozens of Pakistanis are sentenced to death each year under the blasphemy law, though most cases are thrown out by higher courts and no executions have been carried out. The law, however, is unlikely to be repealed because the government's ruling party — largely secular — relies on the support of Islamist groups.

Islamist political parties have recently demonstrated in support of the law and the sentence against Bibi. One hard-line cleric said if the government did not execute Bibi, his mosque would pay anyone who killed her $5,800.

The family of Bibi — a mother of five — insists she was falsely accused over a personal dispute. There have been appeals from around the globe — including one from Pope Benedict XVI — to pardon her. But the government has said it is first waiting for a court ruling on her appeal.

Pakistan's minister for minority affairs has said the law is being examined to prevent widespread abuse.

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Associated Press writer Hussain Afzal in Parachinar, Pakistan, contributed to this report.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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