Stampede In Karachi Results In 18 Deaths

   Eighteen poor Pakistani women and children were killed on Monday in a stampede in the city of Karachi as they collected flour and other supplies being handed out as charity, police said.

   Hundreds of women had gathered outside a building in a poor congested neighborhood and were pushing up some stairs when the accident happened.

  One witness said people tumbled over each other when the lights on the stairs went off because of a power cut.

    Many Muslims give out free food to the poor in the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, the most sacred month of the Islamic calendar, which is due to end next week.

     The estimated population of Pakistan in 2009 was over 180,800,000 making it the world's sixth most-populous country, behind Brazil and ahead of Russia. By the year 2020, the country's population is expected to reach 208 million, owing to a relatively high growth rate. About 20 % of the population live below the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day.

      A civilian government which came to power last year after nine years of military rule has vowed to help the poor but faces tight budgets despite pledges of billions of dollars of aid from allies.

   The government is also battling militant violence which contributed to a slide in investor confidence, exacerbating an economic crisis that forced Pakistan to agree to a $7.6 billion International Monetary Fund bail-out in November.

   Food prices generally rise during Ramadan and hand-outs from the wealthy are a major source of relief for the poor, according to Reuter's report.