Pakistani human rights lawyer ‘made in’ Newcastle

Pakistani human rights lawyer ‘made in’ Newcastle

Hadi Ali For Website

Hadi Ali, Founder and Partner at Fair Trial Defenders Legal Aid Cell – the only free legal support organisation in Multan, Pakistan – received his life-changing education at INTO Newcastle and Newcastle University.

Hadi (pictured second from left), who was brought up on a farm in Pakistan, was just 20 when he came to Newcastle six years ago. Although he had obtained A-levels in Physics, Chemistry and Biology in his home country, he lacked the subjects that would enable him to fulfil his aim of studying Law at Newcastle University.

He enrolled at INTO Newcastle and has never looked back. “INTO helped me survive and evolve accordingly to a country, culture and lifestyle I had never experienced before. I owe my smooth transition to INTO Newcastle – everyone worked as a team and treated us (the international students) like one big family,” he says.

After finishing his International Foundation in Humanities and Social Sciences at INTO Newcastle, Hadi moved on to Newcastle University to study Law LLB Honours. Throughout his degree programme, he was exposed to pro bono initiatives, giving him the chance to develop key skills such as teamwork, leadership, legal research and public speaking, while contributing to the local community.

When he finished Law school, Hadi returned to Pakistan and joined AGHS Legal Aid Cell where he worked under one of the most celebrated and successful Human Rights lawyer of his generation, Asma Jahangir. After gaining experience of cases involving people in real need who do not have the means to hire a lawyer, Hadi decided to return to his hometown (Multan) and start his own law firm: The Fair Trial Defenders (FTD) Legal Aid Cell.

FTD Legal Aid Cell aims to represent anyone who cannot afford legal representation, or has trouble engaging legal counsel due to the controversial nature of their case. He works on everything from child custody, inheritance and property issues to those of public significance, and with clients who may have been subjected to human rights violations. The FTD Legal Aid Cell is self-funded and is now in need of external funding to expand its services and broaden its remit.

Hadi said, “We take up cases which no one else would take. For some in this city we are their only hope. Human rights litigation and advocacy is not for the weak-hearted, especially if you are in a country like Pakistan. We have hit rock bottom at times, but whenever you are standing up against an unjust system, challenging the status quo, or simply fighting for the underdog; a little victory pushes you, enables you to face off more battles.”

Hadi is now the Vice Chairman of the Human Rights Committee Punjab Bar Council. He shared with us a case that made the country notice his firm.

Asma, a primary school teacher, was 22 when she fell during a class and died. The school owner tried to claimed that her death was natural. However, Hadi’s firm received reports from inside the school about the owner’s dubious character and decided to investigate the matter. It turned out that the owner was a candidate for the parliament’s election and a sponsor to the government.

“What our investigation revealed was shocking. Although Asma fell down on her own, she was subsequently left without any medical help despite a critical head injury. Hospital records showed that she was brought there 40 minutes after her fall despite the fact that the hospital was just three minutes from the school.

“We found that the school did not have any medical procedure in case of an accident. Our investigation ended up opening a Pandora box of the school’s illegal activities, such as tax evasion and underpaid staff – Asma, and other staff, were paid 9,000 rupees per month, which was equal to 40 pounds a month!”

Hadi also mentioned that his firm received offers of large sums of money in return for withdrawing the case. However, his firm is still standing strong, not only for Asma but also in the hope of getting a court order to enforce minimum safety and medical procedures for every school in the country.

Due to the nature of his cases, Hadi is regularly invited to talk about societal issues such as violence against women, state’s censorship of the media, anti-terrorism laws and so on by the media, including BBC Urdu, IBC Urdu and Rohi TV.

Speaking of impact, Hadi recalled the influence his teachers at INTO Newcastle had had over his life: “My teachers helped polish my academic as well as interpersonal skills, and even after graduating from INTO, I still went to my teachers to be mentored by them. I definitely would not have had much success today if it wasn’t for the supportive teachers and staff there.”

His teacher, Sarah Redgate said: “During his time at INTO, Hadi was a very active and enthusiastic student. I am not surprised he has gone on to be so successful in his career. Well done, Hadi!”

Hadi now teaches A-levels Law at his old school, Beacon House School System and Human Rights Law to 2nd year Undergraduate students at the University College London’s External Centre (Law School).

Back to News and Press Releases