Project Advocate sets out to provide legal assistance to children in Pakistani prisons

A former Simmons & Simmons lawyer is setting out to help vulnerable children in Pakistan and build up a network highlighting the value of pro bono work in the country.

Mahnaz Malik, previously a litigation associate with Simmons in London, is coordinating the scheme with help from the Law Society.

Named ‘Project Advocate’, the scheme will provide access to justice for children in detention in Pakistan. Nearly half (49 per cent) of Pakistan’s population is under 18 and recent cases that have come to light involve children as young as six being arrested for offences such as theft.

“We’re helping children, but also creating a culture of pro bono,” Malik explained.

Malik said the launch of Project Advocate in April was the result of two years’ collaboration between the Law Society and the British Pakistan Law Council, which Malik founded in 2004 to ally the UK and Pakistani legal communities.

“We didn’t want the British Pakistan Law Council to be just a talking shop,” she said. “We really wanted a project to bring the two legal communities together. Pro bono is something that’s growing in prominence, so that got me thinking.”

Malik added that one of the scheme’s distinguishing features was the youth of its team. “We’re using young people to help young people. They’re more enthusiastic,” she said.

Project Advocate has received funding of £400,000 from the European Commission, £51,400 from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and £12,500 from the Law Society charity. The project was launched formally on 11 April by Cherie Booth QC of Matrix Chambers at the Law Society.