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Pakistani officials disavowal minister's bounty offer on anti-Islamic filmmaker

On Saturday, Pakistan's railways minister told reporters that he would be willing to face arrest for announcing a $100,000 bounty on the makers of an anti-Islamic film that sparked violent protests.

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Pakistan's Railway Minister Ghulam Ahmad Bilour speaks during a news conference in Peshawar September 22, 2012.

REUTERS

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Pakistan's government on Sunday distanced itself from remarks made by a federal minister who offered up to $100,000 to anyone who would kill the maker of an anti-Islamic film that sparked a wave of violent protests across the Muslim world.

Railways Minister Ghulam Ahmad Bilour announced his intent to put up the bounty Saturday, a day after a wave of unrest sparked by the film swept through Islamabad and other major cities in Pakistan, leaving more than 20 people dead and more than 100 injured. One of the people involved in making the film, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, is an Egyptian Coptic Christian from Southern California who has gone into hiding.

A 14-minute trailer for the film released on YouTube portrays the prophet Muhammad as a womanizer and a fraud. On Saturday, Bilour told reporters in the northwest city of Peshawar that he would be willing to face arrest for announcing the bounty if necessary.

"If any international court declares me guilty for announcing the bounty, then I am ready to be hanged in the name of the holy prophet Muhammad," Bilour said. "We are not against freedom of expression, but the misuse of that right to hurt the religious sentiments of others is totally wrong and intolerable."

Bilour's remarks triggered a strong disavowal from members of his party, the Awami National Party, which is aligned with President Asif Ali Zardari's ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP), as well as from top government leaders. A spokesman for Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf told the BBC in an interview that the government had disassociated itself from Bilour's comments.

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