IntroductionPakistan has made slow progress towards reducing the newborn mortality burden; as a result, it has the highest burden of newborn mortality worldwide. This article presents an analysis of the current policies, plans, and strategies aimed at reducing the burden of newborn death in Pakistan for the purpose of identifying current policy gaps and contextual barriers towards proposing policy solutions for improved newborn health.MethodsWe begin with a content analysis of federal-level policies that address newborn mortality within the context of health system decentralization over the last 20 years. This is then followed by a case study analysis of policy and programme responses in a predominantly rural province of Pakistan, again within the context of broader health system decentralization. Finally, we review successful policies in comparable countries to identify feasible and effective policy choices that hold promise for implementation in Pakistan, considering the policy constraints we have identified.ResultsThe major health policies aimed at reduction of newborn mortality, following Pakistan’s endorsement of global newborn survival goals and targets, lacked time-bound targets. We found confusion around roles and responsibilities of institutions in the implementation process and accountability for the outcomes, which was exacerbated by an incomplete decentralization of healthcare policy-making and health service delivery, particularly for women around birth, and newborns. Such wide gaps in the areas of target-setting, implementation mechanism, and evaluation could be because the policy-making largely ignored international commitments and lessons of successful policy-making in comparable regional counties.ConclusionsInclusion of clear goals and targets in newborn survival policies and plans, completion of the decentralization process of maternal and child healthcare service delivery, and policy-making and implementation by translating complex evidence and using regional but locally applicable case studies will be essential to any effective policy-making on newborn survival in Pakistan.