The UK must stop political refugees being attacked by agents of foreign states

An acid attack on Pakistan’s former anti-corruption minister outside his Hertfordshire home is a timely reminder of the risks that political dissidents can face, says Eric Lewis

Tuesday 05 December 2023 18:15 GMT
<p>Shahzad Akbar with former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan </p>

Shahzad Akbar with former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan

Last month, my friend Shahzad Akbar, a former anti-corruption minister in Pakistan and leading human rights lawyer, was attacked with sulphuric acid in front of his four-year-old daughter at his home in Hertfordshire, where he lives in exile.

The incident, which missed his eyes but caused burns to his torso, prompted claims by senior Conservative MP David Davis that there was persuasive evidence it had been carried out by the Pakistani regime.

Shahzad was forced to leave Pakistan when the new government began bringing trumped-up charges against Imran Khan and his former ministers. As I wrote in July, Pakistani authorities arrested Shahzad’s brother, in what MPs and other public figures considered an attempt to intimidate Shahzad – and put pressure on him to come back to Pakistan, where he could be forced to testify and falsely implicate Imran in wrongdoing. After some three months in prison, Shahzad’s chronically ill brother was finally released on medical grounds.

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