British Surgeon Dr Asim Shahmalak Spends £50k Helping Pakistan's Acid Attack Victims (GRAPHIC PICTURES)

Kanwal Ashar was being stalked by a man, furious that she rejected his marriage proposal, obsessed with her after he saw her working in a beauty salon in Karachi.

Across the city, an excited Kanwal Qayum had told her jealous friend how thrilled she was to get a job as an air hostess.

Both would become victims of devastating acid attacks, which are increasing at an alarming rate in Pakistan. Their faces were doused with sulphuric acid. Ashar had her hair grabbed from behind and a bottle flung in her face as she walked home.Their attackers used bottles of the liquid which can be bought on backstreets for as little as 15p.


One of the victims helped by the British surgeon

Their world is far away from that of Manchester surgeon Asim Shahmalak, a private doctor who has performed cosmetic hair transplants on Christian Jessen from the TV medical show Embarrassing Bodies and the model Calum Best.

But this week, Dr Shahmalak took his team of surgeons from Cheadle to the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation in Karachi, spending £50,000 of his own money to rebuild the lives of Kanwal Ashar and Kanwal Qayum, and five other women who suffered horrific burns.

Dr Shamalak told HuffPost UK he has called on authorities and religious leaders in Pakistan to take a tougher stand. "Seven years is not long enough as a maximum sentence for an attack. We estimate hundreds of cases a year go unreported. The government hospitals have no way to rehabilitate these women.

"Many of the mullahs are issuing fatwas about this, that and the other. I am not a political man. But why can't there be a fatwa for this?"

Dr Shahmalak, who runs Crown Clinic, says he is one of only nine surgeons in the world with the skills to help rebuild the women's hair, eyebrows and eyelashes, which had been burnt away.

He originally assessed 17 potential patients, but could only fund the treatment of seven.

"Some of them had to drive for days to Karachi," he told HuffPost UK. "It is absolutely devastating to see. Not one of the attackers have been caught. Some have had acid in their face from fathers or husbands.

"And many have forgiven them, it is a patriarchal society and if their husbands went to prison, they would have no one to support them. So even though they attack them with acid, they don't want to press charges."

Ashar, now 24, was given two new eyebrows, and right eyelashes with hair transplanted from the back of her head in a series of intricate operations performed over three days.

Qayum, 26, has already had extensive surgery on her face and neck, with temporary ‘tattooed’ eyebrows to cover up her lack of brows. But she received two new eyebrows, harvested from the back of her scalp.

Dr Shahmalak said some victims were attacked with sulphuric acid, which can be bought for just 15p

Shahmalak, a father-of-two who was born and trained as a doctor in Karachi, said he was moved to tears when he saw the women. “It was incredibly moving to see the smiles on their faces after we performed the surgery. We were their last hope."

Many, he said, would still be begging on the streets if it was not for help given by NGOs.

According to the New York Times, acid burn attacks are at an all-time high in Pakistan and increase every year.

In 2011 there were 150 acid attacks in Pakistan, up from 65 in 2010. Human Rights Watch believe the real figure could be as high as 400-750 per year.