Surgeon honoured for treating acid-attack victims in Pakistan 

Dr Asim Shahmalak.
Dr Asim Shahmalak.

BRITISH prime minister Boris Johnson has honoured Asian-origin surgeon Dr Asim Shahmalak for providing life-changing surgery to acid-attack victims in Pakistan.

The UK-based Dr Shahmalak from Crown Clinic in Manchester has received a Point of Light award for arranging mercy missions to give 27 horrifically scarred patients free eyelash, eyebrow, and hair transplants.

In a personal letter to Dr Shahmalak, Johnson said: “I know you do this with no thought of praise or reward, but allow me to offer my own recognition of how you are providing life-changing surgery to rebuild the faces of people in Pakistan who have experienced devastating acid attacks.”

Dr Shahmalak said: “I am humbled and honoured to be recognised for this Point of Light Award for my humanitarian work with acid-attack victims in Pakistan. The work is very important to me and is my way of saying thank you for the excellent medical training I received in Pakistan.

“The people I helped have been horrifically injured, some for the ‘crime’ of turning down a marriage proposal, and it was extremely rewarding to help rebuild their faces with hair, eyelash and eyebrow transplants. It is wonderful to have my work recognised by the prime minister and the official gratitude means the world to the whole team at Crown Clinic.”

Dr Shahmalak is the latest recipient of the Points of Light award, which recognises outstanding volunteers who are making a change in their community and inspiring others.

Each day, someone, somewhere in the country is selected to receive the award to celebrate their remarkable achievements.

Dr Shahmalak regularly visits Pakistan to help patients, mainly women, trying to rebuild their lives after being doused in acid.

In an incident, Pakistani mother-of-two Fatima Muneer, 45, was doused in sulphuric acid in a family feud over money and has had four reconstruction operations.

She bravely raised her arm to protect herself as the attack unfolded and was left with deep scars all over her face, arm and upper body.

In yet another acid attack, shopkeeper Niaz Bano, 53, lost her left eye after being pelted with acid disguised in a cup of tea by an embittered relative in a row over her 16-year-old daughter’s wedding.

She has had eight operations so far to repair the damage.

Bottles of the acid used in the attacks can be bought for as little as 15 Pakistani rupees with no questions asked.

Dr Shahmalak provided both women with eyebrow transplants as part of their facial reconstructions at a hospital in Karachi.

The surgeon took a team from Crown Clinic in Bailey Lane close to Manchester Airport, where he is best known for carrying out hair transplants on celebrities such as Coronation Street star Jack P Shepherd, who plays David Platt in the soap.

Father-of-two Dr Shahmalak, 58, said: “I wept when I heard their stories.

“Fatima was incredibly brave and tried to protect herself as the attack took place.

“She was doused with a lot of powerful acid and her injuries went right up her arm and over her upper body.

“Surgeons have done phenomenal job performing grafts on her arm and returning her face to normality.

“I played a small part by providing her with a new left eyebrow to replace hair lost on her brow in the attack.

“I took hair from the back of her head and replanted it in the gaps in her eyebrow.

“This new transplanted hair will grow back in the same way as her head hair so she will need to trim it every now and again when the eyebrow transplant beds in.”

Acid attack victims.

Dr Shahmalak, who lives with his doctor wife Rubina in Cheadle, Manchester, was introduced to the patients by the Karachi-based charity Depilex Smileagain Foundation whose founder Masarrat Misbah has worked tirelessly to help victims of acid attacks.

The Pakistani origin doctor is the 1,294th winner of the Points of Light award, which has been developed in partnership with the hugely successful Points of Light programme in the US.

More than 6,000 Points of Light have been awarded in the US, and former presidents have publicly supported the partnership with Points of Light UK.

There is a similar cross-party approach to the UK programme and MPs from different parties often present their constituents with their Points of Light awards.