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Page last updated at 08:45 GMT, Wednesday, 22 April 2009 09:45 UK

Pakistani district head missing

By M Ilyas Khan
BBC News, Islamabad

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The top official in the north-western district of Upper Dir in Pakistan has gone missing along with his driver and a bodyguard, officials say.

Atifur Rahman went missing shortly after a meeting of top administrators in Malakand division.

Officials fear he may have been kidnapped by militants, though no-one has claimed responsibility.

Malakand, which includes the troubled Swat valley, has introduced Sharia law in a bid to end the Taleban insurgency.

The deal has been criticised by the US and other nations as a capitulation to the militants.

Search operation

Upper Dir, of which Mr Rahman is the administrative head, has been the scene of sporadic militant attacks in recent years.

Malakand is a group of six districts where the government recently introduced the controversial Islamic judicial law to help end militant violence in Swat.

Cleric Sufi Muhammad (C) in Swat
Cleric Sufi Muhammad has questioned the new Sharia system

Mr Rahman went missing from the Och area after attending a meeting of the Malakand administration in the town of Timergara in Lower Dir.

Police have launched a search operation for Mr Rahman and his staff.

A police official in Timergara told the BBC it was feared Mr Rahman might have been kidnapped by militants.

Four security personnel also went missing in Swat district two days ago and remain untraced.

The peace deal with the Taleban is coming under increasing strain.

The advocate-general of North West Frontier Province (NWFP), Ziaur Rahman Turangzai, told media in Peshawar that the Islamic courts being established in Swat would be under the complete administrative control of the Peshawar High Court.

He said the court would have the sole prerogative of appointing judges to these courts, and that the relevant law recently signed by President Asif Ali Zardari did not envisage a role for the Taleban in these matters.

The head of interior ministry, Rehman Malik, said that judges of the Islamic appeal courts being set up in Swat would have high court judges as presiding officers.

The statements were in response to comments by Maulana Sufi Muhammad, the cleric who mediated the peace deal between the NWFP government and the Taleban.

He said the country's courts were all un-Islamic and should not be able to hear appeals to rulings under the Sharia system.



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