Error message

Pakistan faces an acute energy crisis that it cannot fix by domestic policy alone. Instead, it will need to rely on regional cooperation. How Pakistan pursues its regional options will either increase competition among its neighbors or strengthen regional ties.



  • Pakistan has an acute energy crisis that it cannot resolve domestically—at least not in the near term—placing the onus on greater regional cooperation for addressing the situation.
  • This crisis reflects years of underinvestment, partly implemented reforms, and bureaucratic overlap and infighting. The government has taken steps to address the problem, but a far more comprehensive package of solutions is required—one that must be enacted with greater political will than yet displayed.
  • Pakistan has various regional energy options it can pursue. These are not mutually exclusive and could, for example, see Pakistan develop as both an energy hub and a corridor, taking advantage of its geographic position as a crossroads to and between so many countries.
  • Unfortunately, many of the regional solutions available, while boosting the prospects for Pakistan on one hand, undermine it on the other. Thus, Pakistan is faced with difficult choices, with every avenue that appears to offer a new energy source also having a major downside.
  • At present, Pakistan is not well placed to transform itself. It is in a fiscally fragile position and politically charged as it heads into an election cycle. Its security situation is poor, and social unrest in the country is unusually high. Relations with regional neighbors such as Afghanistan and India remain problematic, and its global standing is poor.
  • Ultimately, Pakistan must prove it is a worthy ally to the key players in the region. As battered and bruised as it is, Pakistan needs to overcome past experiences and recreate itself as a dependable, trustworthy partner.
  • Regional frameworks are in place that could be far better employed to serve Pakistan’s interests. These include the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), both of which need to be developed with a focus on energy and development.
  • In the long term, mutual energy need may help dissipate traditional divisions between countries. This is certainly the best-case scenario for Pakistan, and one that curtails the gain-and-loss pattern of its current energy relationships.

About the Report

Pakistan has an acute energy problem that requires increased domestic attention to the problem and pursuit of regional solutions, both to benefit Pakistan and to prevent this problem from being a source of domestic and international conflict. This report provides an overview of some of the key problems facing Pakistan’s energy sector, considers some of the solutions that the government is pursuing, and then concludes with a look at what benefits Pakistan could achieve by pursuing greater engagement in regional and bilateral energy relations.

About the Author

Elizabeth Mills is a freelance consultant with a focus on energy, environmental, and geopolitical issues. She has written about South Asia for more than a decade and has lived and worked in the region.

Related Publications

The U.S.-Pakistan Relationship: Three Pollsters' Views

The U.S.-Pakistan Relationship: Three Pollsters' Views

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Pakistanis who live along the country’s western border care far less about national security issues and extremism within their borders than many American experts and policymakers think, according to new poll data that hints at what may contribute to the complex relationship between the two countries. Taken broadly, the data show a disconnect between the U.S. and Pakistan over how each country views issues that are central to politics and policy in both countries.

Conflict Analysis & Prevention; Economics & Environment

Pakistan's Power Crisis: The Way Forward

Pakistan's Power Crisis: The Way Forward

Monday, June 22, 2015

By: Rashid Aziz; Munawar Baseer Ahmad

Pakistan’s energy shortages disrupt daily life in the country, and protests and demonstrations against the shortages often turn violent, creating a risk that Pakistan’s energy crisis could threaten peace and stability. Incorporating official and donor perspectives, this report examines the factors in Pakistan’s energy crisis and what can be done to address it.

Conflict Analysis & Prevention; Economics & Environment

Conflict Dynamics in Sindh

Conflict Dynamics in Sindh

Monday, January 26, 2015

By: Huma Yusuf; Syed Shoaib Hasan

Pakistan’s southern province of Sindh has a reputation for stability, diversity, and tolerance. It is also at a tipping point—increasingly threatened by violent extremism, crime, political corruption, tribal feuds, and nationalist and separatist movements. If the province is not to become yet another base for militants, as areas to the north already are, the government needs to act promptly and decisively. Addressing the security situation in Sindh is also integral to stabilizing Karachi, whi...

Conflict Analysis & Prevention; Violent Extremism; Economics & Environment

View All Publications