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Strike Paralyzes Pakistan City

August 15, 1998

KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) _ Pakistan’s economic hub of Karachi was closed for business today during a violent general strike that left at least seven people dead.

The one-day strike was called by the Mohajir Quami Movement, the main political party in Karachi, to protest the killings of party workers.

Young men armed with automatic rifles wandered the streets, challenging police and paramilitary forces. Barricades of burning tires helped keep buses and taxis from their routes, and shops were closed throughout the city. At least 100 vehicles were burned.

Witnesses and the MQM said police fatally shot three supporters today as they set fire to vehicles. Police denied that, but confirmed that paramilitary forces killed a fourth person in a similar confrontation.

A police officer, his hands bound and his body bearing the marks of a brutal beating, was found dead in Karachi with a bullet wound in the head.

An unidentified, bullet-riddled body was found in one of the city’s most volatile neighborhoods. No details were available on the seventh killing reported by police.

In nearby Hyderabad, another city dominated by the MQM, a police officer was killed in a drive-by shooting. Hyderabad, like Karachi, was closed down by the strike on what is normally a working day in Pakistan.

The MQM withdrew from the federal government Friday to protest the violence that has engulfed Karachi for years. More than 500 people have been killed this year in political, ethnic and sectarian violence.

Party spokeswoman Nasreen Jaleel said today that the party would also withdraw from the provincial government in Sindh, where Karachi is located, in two days if the government did not arrest those responsible for the deaths of 10 party workers.

``There is no law in the city,″ Jaleel said.

Three days ago, 10 MQM members were killed by gunmen who sprayed a crowd sitting in a park. The MQM blamed a breakaway faction with whom it has been locked in a violent power struggle.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif can govern without the MQM at the federal level. But Sindh Chief Minister Liaquat Jatoi’s provincial government would fall without the party’s support.

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