Doubts over PAS in Putrajaya 

Joceline Tan, The Star 

The trouble is that none among the second echelon has that X-factor needed to lead the party. The current top ulama leadership dates back to the early years of PAS. They have aged and some are sickly. 

PAS’ final muktamar before the mother of all battles ended on a note that left doubts as to whether the party is ready for prime-time politics.

ABU Kassim Abdullah is the most witty man in PAS. The Kedah-born permanent chairman of PAS has the ability to make everyone, including the stern-faced Datuk Seri Hadi Awang, laugh out loud at his cheeky remarks and pantun on stage.

His jokes sometimes bite and poke at PAS leaders, but he never offends.

Some of the ladies in the Muslimat wing complain he makes too many jokes about men with more than one wife and big families, but they still laugh along. He is unapologetic because he has two wives and many children and grandchildren.

No one can do it quite like him and PAS members say it is a God-given talent.

His hair has turned grey and his goatee looks unkempt, but Abu Kassim’s humourous personality was one of the few familiar things at the muktamar this year.

PAS is basically on unfamiliar territory. It is part of a coalition that has never been this close to power. Yet, many in the party are unsure whether the purity of the party’s Islamic agenda is being compromised.

After three days of political speeches, delegates are going home with their heads filled with conflicting messages.

On the one hand, they are told to downplay contentious issues like hudud law and the Islamic State as they prepare to face the general election. On the other hand, there are leaders cautioning the party not to stray from its origins as an Islamic party.

One delegate even asked: “What good is winning Putrajaya if it means that we have to forego our Islamic goal?”

The calls from the floor insisting that Hadi is the best candidate for prime minister is an indication that people in the party are not sure whether the Pakatan Rakyat set-up will respect the party’s Islamic State principles.

Deputy Dewan Ulama chief Datuk Dr Mahfodz Omar assured members that Hadi will become the prime minister if PAS wins the most seats.

Just because those who spoke at the muktamar did not attack Karpal Singh for opposing hudud does not mean that people in the party are not angry with DAP.

They are just as furious about DAP as they are about MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek.

It is quite evident that the rank and file, especially those in the rural heartland, are still uncomfortable about DAP and PKR.

Much of the exuberence about the Pakatan set-up come from the leaders, especially those who will be contesting seats, or as secretary-general Datuk Mustafa Ali puts it, those eyeing stalls to do business in the pasar malam.

Mustafa has likened the general election to a pasar malam and the candidates as traders trying to win as many customers as they could.

These would-be candidates are the ones most eager for the party to foster closer ties with Pakatan.

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