Hero police officer who saved woman from blasphemy mob honoured

A female police officer has been honoured for protecting a woman from a mob accusing her of blasphemy in Pakistan.

The woman was in a Lahore restaurant when people outside took offence to the Arabic script on her dress.

The word printed on the dress was "halwa", which means "beautiful" in Arabic, but the crowd mistook it for verses from the Koran, the Muslim holy book.

Video footage shows them shouting for her to take the garment off, with some chanting that those guilty of blasphemy should be beheaded.

Blasphemy is punishable by death in Pakistan, where some people have been lynched even before their cases go to trial.

Police officer Syeda Shehrbano, an assistant superintendent in Lahore, stepped in and pleaded with the angry mob to "trust us".

She covered the woman in a black robe and gold headscarf before pushing through the crowd, guiding her to safety.

Usman Anwar, police inspector general of Punjab province, said Shehrbano had "put her life in danger" to rescue the woman.

In a ceremony in Rawalpindi, she was awarded Pakistan's highest honour in law enforcement from the country's military, which called her "fearless".

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She told German news outlet DW: "The first response we had when we looked at the scenario was that we have to disperse the crowd enough to make way for ourselves, enough to ensure that the stove which is burning right in front of the shop is not used as material to cause or set fire to the shop.

"And the third is to get the woman out as soon as possible."

She said the woman had refused to remove her clothing, despite the demands of the crowd.

"She was strong enough to state they were not gods on earth and they gathered a mob around her to pursue her or to force her to change her clothing.

"They have rendered this woman in a very traumatic state of mind that she'll be fighting probably for the rest of her life."

After the woman was rescued from the crowd, she was moved to a police station.

Local scholars and clerics were brought in, including some who had been in the angry crowd.

They examined the calligraphy on the woman's dress and concluded it did not contain any Koranic verses.