Troops, rioters battle in Pakistan

Thousands of people led by a local religious leader rampaged through a big town in Pakistan's troubled Sind Province, official sources said. It was one of the largest antigovernment displays since protests had begun here eight days earlier.

The crowd, which the local press put at more than 20,000, streamed into the town of Khairpur and set fire to city courts, a municipal office, two banks, government shops, and the local tax office, the sources said.

There were reports of running battles throughout the town, 275 miles north of the port city of Karachi. The reports said security forces used truncheons and tear gas on the mob, said to be led by the pir (religious leader) of Ranipur, a pre-independence princedom. The protesters chanted antigovernment slogans and demanded an end to the six-year martial-law regime of President Muhammad Zia ul-Haq.

The demonstration, in which at least 100 people have been arrested so far, was the biggest of several Monday in Sind Province. Soldiers have now occupied 11 towns in Sind, including Khairpur.

Police have surrounded jails in the province to guard against raids by protesters, such as one last Wednesday in which 102 convicts were freed. Banks have withdrawn funds from their provincial branches to put them in safer vaults. According to official figures, 14 people have died and 715 have been arrested so far in the protests organized by the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy. MRD wants an immediate return to the Western-style parliament Pakistan had until General Zia ousted Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1977.

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