Mercy Mission


Surgeon to Help Victims of Acid Attacks

A surgeon is returning to Pakistan to help women scarred in acid attacks. Reconstruction expert Asim Shahmalak, from Cheadle, spent £50,000 of his own money to rebuild the lives of seven women who were disfigured – often for doing nothing more than spurning a man’s advances.

He took a team from Crown Clinic – the hair transplant clinic he runs near to Manchester Airport  – for the mercy mission.  He performed eyelash, eyebrow and hair transplants on the women free of charge. Dr Shahmalak, who also has consulting rooms in London’s Harley Street, has now returned to Karachi to review the women’s cases – and hear how the operations had transformed their lives.

He has now identified five new cases and will be returning to Pakistan later this year with a team from Crown Clinic for a second mercy mission which he will also fund.

He said: “There is so much more work to do. I am just glad that I am able to make a difference to these women’s lives.”

These new pictures show how the women’s faces have been rebuilt by the surgery. It takes several months for hair transplants to take hold, but the women’s new brows, lashes and hair have grown back fully. Kanwal Ashar, 24, had acid thrown over her by a man who had been stalking her after she had turned down his proposal.

She had been working in a beauty salon and the man became obsessed by her. Dr Shahmalak, whose wife Rubina is a GP in Manchester, gave her two new eyebrows and a right eyelash with hair transplanted for the back of her head in a series of intricate operations performed over three days.

She has struggled to find work since the attack four years ago and she hopes that the surgery will help to rebuild her life. She told Dr Shahmalak: “I can go to a wedding now and show my face now I have got my eyebrows back. You have changed my life.”

Kanwal Qayum, 27, was doused in acid after telling a jealous former friend that she was starting a new job as an air hostess.

He attacked her in her sleep and she has previously had extensive surgery on her face and neck as she recovers from her wounds. She has previously had eyebrows tattooed on face,  but Dr Shahmalak gave her two permanent new eyebrows and a right eyebrow from hair harvested from the back of her scalp.

Asma Fayyaz, 23, was horrifically scarred three years ago after falling into a pan of boiling fat when she slipped in her kitchen. She had a new right eyebrow and a right eyelash transplanted by Dr Shahmalak and the team from Crown Clinic.

Mona Bhatti, 42, showed off her two new eyebrows. She was shunned by Pakistani society after having a sex change operation. Born a man, she was splattered with acid while begging on the streets after changing sex to a woman.

Dr Shahmalak, a married father-of-two, is one of only nine surgeons in the world qualified to do the kind of intricate eyelash and eyebrow transplants the women needed.

As well as carrying out the transplants, he helped trained local doctors and technicians in his techniques so that his work could carry on at local hospitals on his return to Britain.

He said: “It was wonderful to meet the women again and see how their lives had been improved by the surgery. “I wept when I first heard what had happened to them. Their stories were heartbreaking – scarred for life because you want to better yourself and work as an hair hostess.

“Doused with acid because you turned down a man’s proposal – people were better treated in the Middle Ages. It was incredibly moving to see the smiles on their faces after we performed the surgery. They had given up hope of ever getting help because the Government in Pakistan cannot afford to do anything for them. We were their last hope.

“They are not accepted by society because of their disfigurement. They cannot get jobs and, in some case, they have been disowned by their families and left to beg on the streets.

“They are too frightened of reprisals to tell the police who has attacked them and even if they did, they have no faith that the culprits will be brought to justice.”

Dr Shahmalak, a skilled former NHS general surgeon, said that he had investigated the availability of sulphuric acid while he was in Karachi and found it could be bought for as little as 15p a bottle near to where he performed surgery on the women.

He said: “It easy to buy with no questions asked. And as long as the authorities turn a blind eye to horrific cases like these, the attacks will continue.”

Dr Shahmalak, whose wife Rubina trained with him as a doctor in Karachi and is now a Manchester-based GP, worked with the Karachi-based charity Smile Again which had found patients needing surgery.

One such case was a six-year-old girl doused with acid by her father for refusing to go to school who, sadly, was too young to help.

Dr Shahmalak is best know in the UK for his work with celebrities at his world-renowned transplant centre, Crown Clinic.

He has performed transplants on Christian Jessen from the TV medical show Embarrassing Bodies and the model Calum Best.

He performed the first eyelash transplant in the UK – on a Manchester woman back in 2009.


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