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Drawing primarily from qualitative interviews conducted between 2017 and 2018, this empirical study tells a granular story of how legal actors mobilised during the Lawyers’ Movement in Pakistan (2007–2009) from the perspective of lawyer-leaders who organised, steered and sustained support for the Movement through rapidly shifting political conditions. By underscoring the contribution of lawyer-leaders in empowering judges, the article seeks both to displace uncritical assumptions and arguments about courts as the nucleus of legal mobilisation in Pakistan, and to highlight the crucial role of political parties in the restoration of the judiciary against the backdrop of disintegrating lawyer-judge coalitions. Given Pakistan’s political context of a ‘hybrid regime’, the article reflects on the unsuitability of the ‘legal complex’ theory of ‘political liberalism’ for analysing and understanding the Movement, and locates it instead in the literature on legal mobilisation in authoritarian regimes.
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