Hair Transplant Institute

Expat Pakistanis head home to fuel make-over boom

By Arshad Sharif Reuters Thursday, June 29, 2006; 9:36 PM ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Fancy a tummy tuck or face lift? How about a hair transplant? Lured by the cheap cost, expatriate Pakistanis are among the biggest customers returning to their homeland for cosmetic surgery in what is a rapidly expanding business in the predominantly Muslim country. Hamayun Mohmand's Hair Transplant Institute in Islamabad is typical of clinics in Pakistan that offer breast enlargement, tummy tucks, face lifts, nose jobs and hair transplants. He says most of his customers are people of Pakistani origin from overseas. "My biggest concentration of people is from the United States. Second is the U.K.," Mohmand told Reuters at his clinic in the capital. Other customers getting treatment at a tenth of the price they would have to pay in the West include people of Pakistani descent from continental Europe, especially Norway and Denmark, and a few from Australia, he said. Ijaz Ahmed, a businessman of Pakistani origin from the British city of Manchester, said he had hair transplant work done in Britain and Greece but he wasn't satisfied with the results. Then a friend recommended Pakistan. "I was worried about rip-offs but I got some references and people said good things about their experiences in Pakistan," Ahmed said. "I came to Pakistan, taking a risk, but I've had absolutely no problem. "One of my friends used to go all the way to Thailand because it's very cheap there but Pakistan is also very similar. I'm from Pakistan and decided to get it here," he said.


But it's not just people from overseas who are flocking to improve their appearances at clinics in Pakistan. Steadily rising economic growth is bringing with it the ways of a Western consumer culture, especially in its biggest cities -- Lahore and Karachi And looking good is as important in Pakistan as it is anywhere else. "With television programmes like Oprah Winfrey and the complete make-over programmes, people have become more conscious of their image. They've started to believe in looking good," Mohmand said. Affluent urban woman are fuelling the boom. "I got a nose job done before my marriage as I didn't like the parrot shape of it," said one middle class woman who asked not to be named. "It's worth spending the money to look beautiful and be confident if you can afford it." Another Islamabad-based cosmetic surgeon, Nadeem Pasha, said the daughters of elite families, in their 20s and 30s, as well as women from the world of show business were setting the trend. "Film actresses are among the biggest clients of plastic surgeons in Lahore," said Pasha, who declined to identify any celebrities among his customers. Doctors say the latest craze among women is to enlarge their breasts. The process takes a day and costs nearly 100,000 rupees ($1,600) but post-operative care and consultations may push up the bill, Pasha said. "But even then, it's a lot cheaper in Pakistan than in the U.S. or the U.K. where a similar operation might cost $7,000 to $8,000," he said. The reputation of Pakistani cosmetic surgeons and the low prices they charge is spreading through word of mouth and on the Internet but dangers lurk. Doctors says there are only a 100 qualified plastic surgeons in Pakistan but many more than that are practicing. "There are lots of doctors who are actually, by qualification and training, not plastic surgeons but who are calling themselves plastic surgeons," Mohmand said. "Unfortunately, it happens around the world, but there are no checks in Pakistan. Those I call qualified quacks are quite a few."