PAS to re-visit Malay ground

During the muktamar which starts on Friday in Kelantan, PAS leadership will likely seek to quash perceptions that the party had become subservient to the liberals in PKR and DAP.

For the first time, this Islamist party will be more worried about the Malay electoral ground than the non-Muslim ones. Since 2008, PAS has been accused by its opponents of abandoning its principles and religious credentials.

Hawkeye, FMT

PAS finds itself in a unique situation when the annual muktamar (party gathering) gets underway beginning this Friday in Kelantan.

For the first time, this Islamist party will be more worried about the Malay electoral ground than the non-Muslim ones. Since 2008, PAS has been accused by its opponents of abandoning its principles and religious credentials.

The party has also faced questions over how it had managed issues confronting Muslims in Selangor, Penang and Perak (where Pakatan Rakyat was briefly in control).

This has resulted in a belief that PAS has suffered an erosion of support among the Malay/Muslim ground in the peninsula.

Some by-election results also indicated that the Malay ground has either reversed into a stagnant position as a sign of protest towards both PAS and Umno, or shifted back to Barisan Nasional.

A perception was sowed that PAS has become subservient to the liberals in PKR and DAP when handling Islamic issues and that it was inclined to take a muted stance when faced with the congregation’s concerns.

One of its harshest critics is its own member – the former Penang PAS Youth head Mohammed Hafiz Nordin, who said that he remains loyal to PAS as it is the closest organisation towards advocating Islam.

However, he is also critical over how PAS reacted to issues, saying its lack of leadership in Penang and Selangor as well as its unwillingness to speak up on the proposal by non-believers to use the “Allah” (God) word, has cast a shadow of doubt over PAS’ ability to uphold Islam’s non-compromising principles.

The lingering faultline in the party between the ulama (clerics) and technocrats (professionals and academicians) is also a source of friction in the party.

The highlights in the past year were the controversial sacking of its former Selangor PAS commissioner Dr Hasan Ali as well as the emergence of critical voices such as its ex-deputy president Nasharuddin Mat Isa, who had openly expressed unhappiness over how PAS responded to issues of faith and Islamic policies.

Such issues will likely reverberate on the sidelines when some 3,000 delegates converge in Kelantan for the respective ulama, women, youth and supporters’ club assemblies with the highlight being the main body’s gathering from Nov 16 to 18.

Ageing leadership

Established in 1951 with over one million card-carrying members, PAS is now considered the senior party in its strategic election link-up with PKR and DAP, in what is now called Pakatan Rakyat.

One grouse likely to be on the whispering rounds among the delegates, is the party’s ageing leadership as well as its seemingly unwillingness to engage issues confronting the Muslims.

Its revered spiritual adviser Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat is 82 and ailing while its president Abdul Hadi Awang is 65.

Below the rung are a group of leaders aged in their 50s, who have yet to strike a similar chord with the electorate as Hadi and Abdul Aziz have done for the past three decades.

Deputy president Mohamed Sabu’s credential is questioned as he is not a traditional ulama while vice-presidents Mahfuz Omar, Husam Musa and Sallehuddin Ayub are said to be too cautious to the liking of the grassroots, who are growing anxious by the day to see the future course of the party.

Here, two PAS activists provide their input and expressed their hopes on what the party can achieve in the muktamar.

Former Perak PAS commissioner Awang Ahmad agrees that PAS needs to revive its momentum for the Malay ground to complement the fact that non-Muslims remains solidly behind Pakatan.

Awang said this coming general election is the most important one in the Malaysian electoral history.

“It is a do or die for the ruling BN coalition. As for Pakatan, there is no better time to take over the country than now. If we lose, it would take a long while to regain support for another serious attempt at winning Putrajaya.”

This must be emphasised at the muktamar.

Fear factor no longer there

The topic and issues debated should be towards winning the election, nothing more or less, Awang said in an interview.

He said PAS must also build on the support among non-Muslims by embarking on preaching programmes to enlighten them about Islam.

On the polemical issues of ulama versus professionals in the party, Awang said the definition of ulama cannot be restrictive in PAS.