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Stock freefall sparks Pak riot

Islamabad, March 24: Hundreds of furious investors rioted at the Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE) today after shares plumetted from last week's record highs.

Paramilitary troops were deployed at the exchange after the investors went on a rampage inside and outside the building. The police detained some investors after they threw stones as well as smashed cars and office windows in the building's courtyard.

The unrest started after the KSE-100 index fell for the sixth consecutive day from the record high of 10,304.72 points on March 15 to 8315.67 points today.

The angry investors, who had opted for heavy buying last week, complained that they were unable to offload shares of market leader ' Oil and Gas Development Corporation (OGDC) as its prices continued to slump for the third day in a row.

Today, OGDC shares slid to their lowest point as trading began triggering a drop in other stocks. Small investors accused major players of 'foul play' and demanded the government's intervention.

However, under rules designed to prevent the market from going into a freefall, the management suspended trading in a number of key blue chip shares when they dropped by five per cent or more.

'This gives small investors no opportunity to sell their holdings because trading is locked by the management to avoid crash,' said Humaira Zaheer, the head of research at Capital One Equities.

The directors of the KSE and officials of the Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan called emergency meetings in Karachi and Islamabad to tackle the situation.

Television footage showed crowds of angry people rallying outside the stock exchange and pick-up trucks full of armed riot police racing towards the scene.

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