Victory of sorts for Nasharudin

PAS politician Nasharudin Mat Isa has been given a reprieve by the party’s most powerful body – the Syura Council – in what many see as the ulama exerting their clout over the liberals who want him sacked.

Joceline Tan, The Star

IT was a victory of sorts for controversial PAS politician Nasharudin Mat Isa when he emerged unscathed from the highly anticipated meeting of the party’s powerful Syura Council. The meeting ended at about 11pm on Sunday; it had been a long day and everyone was tired.

But Nasharudin was smiling as he stood alongside his party president Datuk Seri Hadi Awang, both of them looking as though nothing was amiss while cameras flashed all around them.

It was the first time that Nasharudin was attending any party meeting since losing his position as deputy president last year. It looked almost like the good old days when Nasharudin used to accompany Hadi everywhere before things went downhill for Nasharudin.

For weeks, there had been speculation that Nasharudin would be disciplined or even sacked after he was photographed with the Prime Minister at an exclusive meeting with several notable Saudi ulama in Mecca. His critics in the party thought he was cavorting with the enemy.

But the last straw was when he appeared on TV3’s prime-time news calling for his party to pull out from cooperating with DAP; that was when his critics began baying for blood.

There was also speculation that Nasharudin, who is an ulama, would be dropped as a member of the prestigious Syura Council but it looks like he has not only survived the latest round of controversy, he got to keep his place among the party’s top ulama.

According to Hadi, the Syura Council did not discuss Nasharudin’s position. But it is learnt that Nasharudin was given a chance to explain some of his statements against DAP as well as defend his presence in Mecca with Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat, who heads the Syura Council, was one of the biggest critics of Nasharudin. But Nik Aziz left the meeting after 30 minutes, thereby clearing any possible opposition to Nasharudin’s position.

There are several reasons why Nasharudin escaped censure from the party’s top decision-making council. The party leaders did not want to repeat the mistake they made over the sacking of their former vice-president Datuk Dr Hasan Ali who had offended the Erdogans as well as DAP with his over-zealous Islamic agenda in Selangor.

It would have been awkward to sack one leader after another just because they opposed DAP and wanted a stricter adherence to the party’s Islamic State agenda. It would be like admitting to PAS faithfuls that the party has gone astray.

Moreover, if the party had wanted to punish him, it would have been executed by the central committee which had dropped him from the committee and also as head of the international bureau. The Syura Council only deliberates policy matters and issues of the faith.

Nasharudin’s dilemma has also been seen as a tug-of-war between the conservative ulama and the liberals or Erdogans in PAS.

The fact that he remains a member of the Syura Council suggests that the ulama are standing by one of their own. The ulama are exerting their clout over the Erdogans who have become quite powerful and vocal after Mohamed Sabu became the first non-ulama deputy president of PAS.

The thing is that the conservative faction of PAS are on the same page as Nasharudin. They are also not comfortable about the party’s partnership with DAP. They are upset that PAS should persist in working with a party that is so critical of what they stand for and they have also been vocal about it.

To rub salt into the wound, they have to endure DAP chairman Karpal Singh’s public attacks on the party’s mission to implement hudud. Nasharudin, in that sense, is taking the bullets for what they believe in.

Nasharudin had good reason to be smiling on Sunday night. He had survived to fight another day and is commanding a lot of attention for someone who does not even hold a party post.

Even Karpal’s threat to sue Nasharudin over remarks regarding hudud may not materialise. It is understood that people are working behind the scenes to pressure Karpal not to go ahead with it.

Karpal and Nasharudin had engaged in a war of words over the issue of hudud. Things came to a head when Nasharudin reportedly equated Karpal’s opposition to hudud to being anti-Islam. Karpal‘s contention is that he is not against Islam but opposed to PAS’ goal to establish an Islamic State.

Karpal, when contacted, indicated that he intends to go ahead with the suit but was rather ambiguous as to when he would file it.

Nasharudin’s career is as good as over. He is, as Karpal puts it, “a minor digit in PAS”.

The once rising star has gone from hero to zero and the question many in his party are asking is: Will he now toe the line or will he continue to be a loose cannon?

“He will have to watch his words,” says a top party figure. “The next mistake he makes, he is out.”