ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Saturday banned cinemas from showing the movie ``The Da Vinci Code'' following protests by the minority Christian community.

Though the film has not been screened in any theatre, a government announcement said authorities decided to ban it out of respect for the feelings of Christians, some of whom have said the movie is insulting. The ban came a couple of days after Christians staged protests in two cities against the film, demanding a global ban on the movie. Christians make up about 3 per cent of Pakistan's 150 million persons. Minister for Culture Ghulam Jamal told state media that the movie was banned as it contained blasphemous material on Jesus Christ.

Shahbaz Bhatti, a prominent Christian leader in Pakistan, hailed the ban and thanked the leadership for ``making the right decision.'' He said the ban would go a long way to ensuring sectarian harmony.

Mr. Bhatti last week wrote letters to President Pervez Musharraf and superior court judges, demanding a complete ban on the sale of CDs or screening of the movie in theatres.

On Saturday, he said, ``The Da Vinci Code is a sacrilegious act in the guise of freedom of expression and fiction. ''

He also criticised Dan Brown, saying the author had ``evil intentions'' and wanted ``to undermine the historical as well as theological truth about Jesus Christ'' as presented in the Bible. AP