About the Paper

As the United States and Pakistan approach 75 years of bilateral engagement, the relationship between the two countries is at a critical crossroads. While viewing the US-Pakistan relationship exclusively through the security lens seems to be untenable, the road ahead, in the broader context of the Afghanistan withdrawal and great power competition, remains murky. Nevertheless, there exists a willingness on both sides to avoid the lows of the 1990s even if the highs of the 1980s or 2000s are not possible. It is, therefore, important to understand the interplay of the current state of diverging and converging interests of both countries that may inform the contours of a “right sized” relationship. This discussion paper is a culmination of input received from sectoral and policy experts from both countries on the key areas of concern. It attempts to outline a rethinking of US-Pakistan relations against the background of changing priorities in the region and globally for both the United States and Pakistan.

About the Authors

Hamza Ijaz has served as a member of UNDP Pakistan’s Inclusivity and Governance Cluster for localization of sustainable development goals in Pakistan, as well as team lead for the development of the Punjab IT Policy 2018. Ijaz holds a master’s degree in governance and public policy from the University of Passau, Germany. Ijaz is currently working as a Senior Program Officer at USIP.

Imran Khan is USIP’s country director in Pakistan, where he has taught courses on public policy and governance at the Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad, and has over 12 years of experience in the social development sector, particularly in the fields of peacebuilding and education reforms. Khan holds a master’s degree in anthropology and development from the London School of Economics.

Maryam Kiyani works as a consultant with USIP. Kiyani previously worked as a research journalist and podcast host at a youth-led and research-driven digital media platform, where she worked on stories on Afghanistan, international relations, society, and gender. She has a BA in history honors from the Lahore University of Management Sciences, where she researched themes of imperialism in South Asia, colonization and decoloniality, state-citizen relationships, and alternate/(re)imagined histories.

Dr. Adnan Rafiq formerly served as USIP’s country director in Pakistan and works on Member Governance, Innovation and Reforms at the Planning Commission of Pakistan. As a consultant on security issues at the Ministry of Interior, Government of Pakistan, he has led the technical team that formulated the National Internal Security Policy (2018–22). Rafiq holds a PhD in politics from the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Oxford.

This research was funded by USIP’s Asia Center, which is solely responsible for the accuracy and thoroughness of the content.

Related Publications

A Threshold Alliance: The China-Pakistan Military Relationship

A Threshold Alliance: The China-Pakistan Military Relationship

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

By: Sameer P. Lalwani, Ph.D.

Geopolitical shifts in South Asia over the past decade, driven by sharper US-China competition, a precipitous decline in China-India relations, and the 2021 withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, have pushed the Chinese and Pakistani militaries closer together. The countries’ armies and navies are increasingly sharing equipment, engaging in more sophisticated joint exercises, and interacting more closely through staff and officer exchanges. Yet, as this report concludes, a full China-Pakistan alliance is not inevitable, as Chinese missteps and other sources of friction could slow its consummation.

Type: Special Report

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

In Pakistan, Women Police Push for Gender Equality

In Pakistan, Women Police Push for Gender Equality

Thursday, March 9, 2023

By: Amna Kayani;  Jumaina Siddiqui

In Pakistan, few institutions epitomize the connection between power and male dominance better than the police. Even after a decade of Pakistani government efforts to recruit more women in police departments, policing in Pakistan remains an overwhelmingly masculine profession — with women making up less than 3 percent of the country’s police force, despite quotas in place. And for the policewomen who do serve, institutional barriers and societal prejudices have made career progression an increasingly uphill battle.

Type: Blog

GenderJustice, Security & Rule of Law

India and Pakistan Are Playing a Dangerous Game in the Indus Basin

India and Pakistan Are Playing a Dangerous Game in the Indus Basin

Thursday, February 23, 2023

By: Daniel Haines

On January 25, India sent a notice to Pakistan demanding the modification of the Indus Waters Treaty. Pakistan has so far refused to engage. The treaty, which India, Pakistan and the World Bank originally signed in 1960, allocates rights over the waters of several rivers in the Indus Basin to India and Pakistan.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & PreventionEnvironment

Is Pakistan Poised to Take on the TTP?

Is Pakistan Poised to Take on the TTP?

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

By: Asfandyar Mir, Ph.D.;  Tamanna Salikuddin;  Andrew Watkins

The Pakistani Taliban’s late January attack in Peshawar, the capital of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, claimed the lives of more than 100 worshipping at a police compound mosque. The bombing was claimed by a faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP, also known as the Pakistani Taliban) initially, but later denied by the TTP’s central leadership. It was the group’s deadliest attack since its 2021 resurgence after the Afghan Taliban took power in Afghanistan. As Pakistan struggles with a major economic crisis, the fallout from the deadly floods of last fall and an ever-turbulent political scene, the TTP’s growing threat presents yet another challenge for the struggling nation.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & PreventionViolent Extremism

View All Publications