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

The Promise and Peril of Pakistan’s Economic Recovery Effort

The Promise and Peril of Pakistan’s Economic Recovery Effort

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

By: Shahbaz Rana

In the first half of 2023, Pakistan appeared to be moving toward a catastrophic economic default. An IMF loan program Pakistan entered into in 2019 had gone off track after the Fund found Islamabad’s commitment to reform lacking, leading to a suspension of loan disbursements. The derailment of the IMF program resulted in a significant drop in the country’s foreign exchange reserves — at one point this year, reserves could only cover about two weeks' worth of imports due to concurrent debt repayment pressure. To avoid defaulting, the government imposed stringent import restrictions in an attempt to control dollar outflows. That caused a major economic shutdown of import-dependent industries, a shortage of essential commodities and surge in inflation.

Type: Analysis and Commentary


Pakistan’s Parliamentary Period Ends as Election Uncertainty Looms

Pakistan’s Parliamentary Period Ends as Election Uncertainty Looms

Thursday, August 10, 2023

By: Asfandyar Mir, Ph.D.

A five-year parliamentary term just concluded in Pakistan, marking the third such term since the country's 2008 transition from military rule. These past five years were marred by domestic political tumult and an outsized — at times decisive — military role in politics. During this period, Pakistan witnessed two ruling coalitions with different prime ministers: the Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and allied parties from August 2018 to April 2022, followed by the Shehbaz Sharif-led Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) and allies from April 2022 until this week. Top political leaders also faced legal issues — most recently, Khan was convicted for illegally selling state gifts and disqualified from contesting the election.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Civilian-Military RelationsDemocracy & Governance

Displaced to Cities: Conflict, Climate Change, and Rural-to-Urban Migration

Displaced to Cities: Conflict, Climate Change, and Rural-to-Urban Migration

Thursday, June 15, 2023

By: Gabriela Nagle Alverio;  Jeannie Sowers;  Erika Weinthal

Countries as geographically diverse as Honduras, Jordan, and Pakistan are experiencing a common challenge—rapid growth in urban populations as conflict and climate-induced disasters push people from rural areas into cities. This report examines the effects of this increased urban migration on both the migrants and the urban environment, as well as the challenges policymakers face. It offers recommendations to help meet the needs of growing urban populations and develop adaptive, resilient systems to better withstand the impacts of climate change and conflict.

Type: Peaceworks

Conflict Analysis & PreventionEnvironment

The Latest @ USIP: Pakistani Police’s Gender Initiatives Expand Access to Justice

The Latest @ USIP: Pakistani Police’s Gender Initiatives Expand Access to Justice

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

By: Amna Baig

The Pakistani police’s gender protection units ensure that from start to finish, a victim’s case is handled by a staff of female and transgender officers — helping women and transgender victims overcome the cultural and gender barriers that often hamper their access to the justice system. Amna Baig, a Pakistani police superintendent and founder of Pakistan’s first gender protection unit, discusses how these programs work to prevent and counter gender-based violence, what’s needed to help replicate and expand them elsewhere, and how police can better integrate gender initiatives in their work more broadly.

Type: Blog

GenderJustice, Security & Rule of Law

View All Publications