Pakistani police have charged 68 lawyers with blasphemy after a protest in Jhang, Punjab province, in the latest deterioration of relations between the authorities and the legal profession.

The arrests came a week after the murder of Rashid Rehman, who was acting for a university lecturer accused of blasphemy, which carries the death penalty in Pakistan.

Rehman was shot in his office after receiving death threats in open court, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, which said he had ‘bravely decided to represent a blasphemy accused in a society where bigots believe that those accused do not have the right of defence’.