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Imran Khan’s former adviser pursues legal action against the Islamic Republic of Pakistan over acid attack in the UK

A former adviser and Federal Minister to deposed Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan is taking legal action against the Government of Pakistan over an acid attack that left him scarred for life.

Posted on 29 April 2024

Shahzad Akbar had acid thrown at his face when he opened his door to a caller at his home in Royston on 26 November 2023.

He believes only his glasses and him slamming the door shut prevented him being blinded.

Shahzad claims the Government of Pakistan was behind the attack, which happened in front of his young child, and has left him scarred and with psychological injuries.

Shahzad has sent the Government of Pakistan a letter outlining the claim which he intends to bring against it at the High Court in London.

Shahzad, aged 46, was an adviser to Imran Khan until three months before the Prime Minister was deposed in April 2022. While in office, Shahzad highlighted the army and Inter-Services Intelligence’s (ISI) interference with his accountability and anti-corruption objectives. Believing that the issue was systematic, and that he could not fix the rampant corruption in Pakistan, he resigned from Khan’s government in January 2022.

Shortly after Khan was ousted, Shahzad was placed on a no-fly list. His name was removed from the list after he was successful in a court challenge. On 17 April 2022, he fled to London via Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to avoid being targeted by Pakistan and/or its agents.

In December 2022, Shazad settled in the UK and took on an in-house lawyer position with a UK company based in London. He continues to campaign against corruption in Pakistan and remains highly critical of the military establishment and government officials on social media and newspapers based outside of Pakistan. He claims that the Government of Pakistan has continued to target him through acts of transnational repression.

In October 2023, Shahzad was informed by his acquaintances that the Pakistan High Commission in London was attempting to trace his home address. In November 2023, Shahzad received a letter from the Pakistan High Commission demanding information about a confidential agreement involving the UK National Crime Agency.

Two weeks later, on 26 November 2023, Shahzad suffered the acid attack. His wife and daughters were at home with him when the attacker struck. The assailant aimed acid from a bottle at Shahzad’s face, injuring his face, head and right arm. If it were not for his glasses, Shahzad believes the acid would have also injured his eyes, likely causing permanent partial or complete blindness.

Shahzad reacted quickly and slammed his front door. His skin began to melt, and he was in excruciating pain.

Shahzad’s wife called 999 and the fire and rescue service hosed him down outside his home, in almost-freezing temperatures. Uncertain if the substance used was deadly, the emergency services took Shahzad to the Addenbrookes Hospital, in Cambridge.

The attack has caused discolouration and/or hyperpigmentation of the areas of skin burned by the acid.

Shahzad claims the attack was perpetrated and/or directed by Pakistan and/or its agents.

In his legal claim against the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Shahzad is represented by Ida Aduwa at law firm Leigh Day.

Shahzad Akbar said:

“Compared to what was done to me in November 2023, I believe a lot worse is being inflicted on dissidents in Pakistan by the current regime. They are targeting political workers, lawyers, judges and even journalists. However, what should be most alarming for the world is that Pakistan is able to target its dissidents on British soil without any accountability. My aim is not only to seek justice for what was done to me, but to also make it safer for political dissidents all over the world by standing up against transnational repression”.

Ida Aduwa, senior associate solicitor at Leigh Day who represents Shahzad, added:

“Harassment by foreign states takes place in several forms. We have seen a rise in digital surveillance tools, such as spyware technology being used in transnational repression. Unfortunately authoritarian and “friendly” regimes do not always shy away from also using physical attacks as a tool to silence political dissent, as is alleged in this case. Providing legal assistance to human rights defenders, journalists, and activists who are victims of transnational repression is key to holding states accountable”.

Ida Pottin Aduwa
Corporate accountability International International human rights Spyware

Ida Aduwa

Ida is a senior associate in the international department

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