Pakistan police say they are searching for a Christian man facing blasphemy charges after a Muslim friend accused him of insulting Islam with a poem.

Local police official Mohammad Asim said on Tuesday that the accused, Nadeem Masihm, is on the run.

Masihm is alleged to have sent his friend the controversial poem on WhatsApp. The incident occurred in the town of Sara-e-Alamghir in Punjab province. Asim said police are also guarding a local church to avoid any violence.

Under Pakistan's blasphemy laws, anyone accused of insulting Islam can be sentenced to death. However, the laws are often misused to settle personal scores and target minorities. In 2015, Muslims beat to death a Christian couple and burned their bodies in a brick kiln for allegedly desecrating the Quran.