LONDON (TrustLaw) - It was a most brazen attack.
Zakia, 39, had just gone to a courthouse in Pakistan's capital Islamabad to file for divorce.
She wanted to end her marriage to a drug addict and drunk, who beat her and took her money. But no sooner had Zakia submitted her papers than her husband turned up. Furious, he hurled a liquid at her face.
It was battery acid.
“It took one second to ruin my life completely,” Zakia said.
More than 100 people, mainly women and girls, are disfigured in this brutal way every year in Pakistan, although groups helping the survivors of acid attacks say many more cases go unreported.
Victims are often permanently blinded or lose the use of their hands. Their scar tissue can become infected with septicemia or gangrene. They suffer deep trauma. Yet many are accused of bringing it on themselves.
Few receive the specialist treatment offered to Zakia in "Saving Face", an Oscar-nominated short documentary that follows her quest to get help from British-Pakistani plastic surgeon Dr Mohammad Jawad.
A handsome, big bear of a man, Jawad is renowned in Britain for his pioneering work on the survivor of a rare case of acid violence in the UK - former model Katie Piper, who had sulphuric acid thrown at her in an attack orchestrated by an ex-boyfriend.
When Zakia first meets Jawad a few months after her attack, the left side of her face looks like it has melted. One eyebrow and eye have disappeared, her lips are pinched and her cheek roughened by the angry scarring left by the acid.
Her skin feels tight. She is in pain. It is getting harder and harder to eat and drink. Jawad remembers Zakia's habit of wearing a black veil that covered her face, except for a slit for her eyes which she hid behind sunglasses.
"Your face is your portal of communication. This guy tried to take her face, her everything that allows her to react to the rest of the world," Jawad told TrustLaw.
"Her face was not her face."
PRETTY YOUNG THINGS
Born in Karachi, Jawad was mostly raised by his mother who supported eight children on her own after being widowed in 1975.
Jawad left Pakistan in 1989, but was on a visit to the South Asian country at the end of 2008 when a professor and mentor mentioned the prevalence of acid attacks there.
Growing up under his mother's mantra of "work hard" and "do something useful for society", Jawad said he could not ignore the call. He decided to return and put his skills to work on women like Zakia.
"Each one had a story ... that was horrible, horrible, horrible," Jawad said of the dozens of girls and women he has treated since 2009 on frequent trips back to Pakistan.
"I was depressed, I was angry. They were all acid victims," he said in an interview at his Nip n Tuck clinic on London's Wimpole Street, famous for its private medical practices. "Quite a few had damage done to their eyes. Everyone was deformed. They had some surgery done but it was patchy work and nothing was complete. For quite a few I had to do it all over again."
In Pakistan, many women are attacked by their husbands, others because they have turned down a proposal of marriage. One girl in the documentary describes how she was burned after rejecting the advances of her teacher. She was 13 at the time.
"They were very bright and pretty girls - literally because all of them brought me their pictures," Jawad said.
Another woman featured in the film is 25-year-old Rukhsana, whose husband threw acid on her and her sister-in-law doused her in gasoline before her mother-in-law lit a match and set her on fire.
CELEBRATE THE PLASTIC SURGEONS
Society and the state let the women down, Jawad said: the government failed to protect them or deliver them justice, while state hospitals failed in their duty to care for them.
However, he acknowledged that things may be changing.
Zakia's husband received two life sentences for his attack on her - the first case to be tried under new legislation.
Passed by Pakistan's Senate in December, the Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Bill recommends a prison sentence of 14 years to life and fines of up to 1 million rupees ($11,000) for perpetrators of the crime.
"Now you have an effective deterrent there, but whether it will be enforced remains to be seen," Jawad noted.
Not only did Zakia get justice, but, thanks to Jawad's mastery, she is finally able to discard her veil.
"Her results were just fantastic," the surgeon said as he went on to describe his passion for aesthetics and the kinds of surgeries he normally performs, from breast enhancements to facelifts and liposuction.
His work allows him to "sleep very well", and through it he hopes to encourage other plastic surgeons.
Reflecting on his achievements with acid attack victims, Jawad said his work in Pakistan was a great example of what the community of plastic surgeons can contribute to society.
"We’re not only booby job guys, we’ve done wonderful things," he said.