The northward motion of the Pamir indenter with respect to Eurasia has resulted in coeval thrusting, strike-slip faulting, and normal faulting. The eastern Pamir is currently deformed by east-west oriented extension, accompanied by uplift and exhumation of the Kongur Shan (7719 m) and Muztagh Ata (7546 m) gneiss domes. Both domes are an integral part of the footwall of the Kongur Shan extensional fault system (KES), a 250 km long, north-south oriented graben. Why active normal faulting within the Pamir is primarily localized along the KES and not distributed more widely throughout the orogen has remained unclear. In addition, relatively little is known about how deformation has evolved throughout the Cenozoic, despite refined estimates on present-day crustal deformation rates and microseismicity, which indicate where crustal deformation is presently being accommodated. To better constrain the spatiotemporal evolution of faulting along the KES, we present 39 new apatite fission track, zircon U-Th-Sm/He, and 40Ar/39Ar cooling ages from a series of footwall transects along the KES graben shoulder. Combining these data with present-day topographic relief, 1-D thermokinematic and exhumational modeling documents successive stages, rather than synchronous deformation and gneiss dome exhumation. While the exhumation of the Kongur Shan commenced during the late Miocene, extensional processes in the Muztagh Ata massif began earlier and have slowed down since the late Miocene. We present a new model of synorogenic extension suggesting that thermal and density effects associated with a lithospheric tear fault along the eastern margin of the subducting Alai slab localize extensional upper plate deformation along the KES and decouple crustal motion between the central/western Pamir and eastern Pamir/Tarim basin.