Both the National Assembly and the Senate have finally passed the FATA Reforms Bill, and as soon as the President signs it, FATA will be merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. This is a welcome move for there should never be two different systems of governance or justice in a country. The extension of the Pakistani constitution with full effect to FATA is something we should all be glad about. The policy of treating these tribal areas as a separate entity and the draconian FCR law that holds all the people of a tribe responsible for the crime of one was wrong from the beginning. The very idea of supporting the status quo, whether in FATA, GB or in the former states of Bahawalpur, Swat, Makran, and Kalat was undemocratic, whatever the political requirements of the time might have been. Thus, Congress’s stance on merging the princely states with the Indian republic or all such entities was absolutely correct and democratic. At the same time, however, it must be noted that this hasty merger will divide opinion. The fact that only 2 FATA MNAs out of a total of 9 voted in favour of the bill would itself have stood in gross violation of the spirit of the constitution had the other 7 voted against the bill. The others, however, chose to abstain. All of us also remember Jinnah’s 14 points. The 8th point read, “No bill or resolution or any part thereof shall be passed in any legislature or any other elected body if three fourths of the members of any community in that particular body oppose it as being injurious to the interests of that community or in the alternative.” Although the point particularly mentions ‘oppose it’, the spirit is that more than twenty five percent of the members of ‘all communities’, especially the one that will directly be impacted by the bill under discussion, should vote in favour. Not that the constitution considers FATA as a separate ‘community’ in the sense that Jinnah meant it, the important fact is that the people of FATA are to be directly affected by this merger. As it stands, more than three-fourths of the representatives of that particular community have abstained from voting. This is alright if the ‘letter’ is all that we are concerned with, but it is not alright if we wish to adhere to the ‘spirit’ as well. Similarly, the fact that an outgoing assembly passed a piece of legislation at the eleventh hour is in itself undemocratic, as far as, the spirit of democracy is concerned. None of the political parties had contested the 2013 election on the platform of merging FATA with KP. Thus, it would have been better if the issue had been left to the coming assemblies with a fresh mandate on the subject in a few months’ time. Moreover, the FCR is not going anywhere. Only the law’s name has been changed while the practice will continue. To make matters even worse, Parliament will be dissolved on May 31, which leaves no space for a political debate on the subject for the next two months The FCR, moreover, is not going anywhere. Only the name of the law has been changed while the practice will continue. To make matters even worse, Parliament will be dissolved on May 31, which leaves no space for an institutional political debate on the subject for the next two months. Despite all these reservations, the bill is still at least a beginning. The change in the name of the FCR is a clear indication that at least there exists a realisation on the part of the ruling class that it is an unpopular law, and a bitter memory of our colonial past. Maulana Fazl ur-Rehman too has a point when he says that the people of FATA should in the first phase be extended political rights, and be provided with education and other basic facilities. After that, a referendum held in the next five to ten years with a politically aware population would result in a more representative opinion of the people of FATA. The problem with this argument however is that we are assuming that education will bring political awareness and that it does not exist already. This stapling of political intellect with education is the fallacy that most dictators have banked on to dodge the question of democracy. Then there is the viewpoint of Pakhtunkhwa-Milli Awami Party (Pk-MAP) of Mehmood Khan Achakzai. It remains unclear what exactly their argument is. I have tried to learn but failed to comprehend it. They are opposed to the merger, that is for sure, but what are they in favour of? I have so far not been able to hear it directly from them. Do they want a separate province? They have not stated this demand as yet. Do they want to continue with FATA’s status as a federally administered tribal entity? They have not stated this either. Does it have something to do with the Durand Line? We do not know. They have to come out with their opinions. Their opposition to the merger, so far, has been mere opposition, and nothing else. As far as Afghanistan’s opposition to the merger is concerned, it does not merit a serious response. It is high time that the Afghans get over their ‘Pakhtunistan’ hangover. Afghanistan has failed to get its own act together for over a quarter of a century, and yet they have the audacity to lay claim over something they never owned. Their obstinacy is remarkable. Olaf Caroe was the last British governor of the erstwhile North West Frontier Province in undivided India. The situation, moreover, has only worsened in Afghanistan since he wrote his iconic history of the Pakhtun people, ‘The Pathans’, in 1957. Here is a piece of advice from the British statesman, ‘a Yousufzai at heart’, that Afghanistan must pay attention to: “For one thing, the Pathans, and not only those in the districts, have now learned to look unmistakably to the east for education, service and all the higher things of life; the social, economic and political ideas of the Durranis have become to them an anachronism. For them, Kabul irredentism is empty of meaning; political amalgamation, should it ever come, would take a very different shape. Peshawar would absorb Kabul, not Kabul Peshawar.” The writer is blog editor at Daily Times, Lahore Published in Daily Times, May 30th 2018.