Be the basis of the argument between politics and ideology, or between camaraderie and struggle, or present realpolitik or future aspiration, the Muktamar PAS that completed yesterday signaled a dilemma within PAS on their position towards Anwar's leadership of Pakatan Rakyat.
Whether that dilemma will take its toll in Anwar's Permatang Pauh by-election performance, it is an interesting matter for discussion.
The presence of AKIM's candidate Hanapi Maidin could attract vote dumping by voters anti to both PKR and BN or PAS protest votes. PAS members could be the deciding votes to swing it away from Anwar. BN realises it and yesterday Dato Seri Najib mentioned of PAS's suspicion towards Anwar.
Lets return to PAS Muktamar.
Cause for Discomfort
The call for President Dato Haji Hadi Awang to be the Prime Minister for the future Pakatan Government is a clear sign of discomfort within PAS fold.
Just few months earlier in the midst of Anwar's psywar to change Government through Sabah dan Sarawak MPs jumping ship, PAS spiritual leader, Dato Nik Aziz did question the morality of a backdoor takeover of Government.
Never mind the fact that it was PAS' Mat Sabu that first made an issue of Anwar's alleged homosexuality. And, as one PAS Youth Leader spoke in private, they are fully aware of Anwar's private deals and are quite wary of him.
PAS benefited from championing Anwar's cause and the alliance with his Parti Keadilan Rakyat. In 1999, PAS managed to takeover Terengganu and the late Dato Haji Fadzil Noor became Opposition Leader.
The reality of PAS recent General Election performance is that it is more due to ABU (Asal Bukan UMNO) sentiment and unintentionally helped by Dr Mahathir's criticism of Abdullah Badawi than an ideological victory. Negara Islam call was put on hold for the recent General Election.
Baradan Puppusamy wrote that the perceived rising popularity for mulracial political party could spell the dearth for PAS.
Generally, the Malay majority areas remained as UMNO's strongholds and PAS encroachment into non-traditional areas was helped by non-Malay voters. For BN, their declining numbers is more due to the poor performance of MCA and MIC candidates than that of UMNO's.
Anwar's recent years transformation into multipluralism is not in tandem with post Asri PAS's Negara Islam struggle. In an interview with BBC's Hardtalk, Anwar confidently guranteed PAS to dump their Islamic state agenda.
For political convenience, PAS justified the current Pakatan Rakyat pact based on the commonality with their Islamic state struggle in pursuit for justice, good governance, combating corruption, transparency and fairness.
That is not sufficient to hold water for long.
Islamic state and Malaysian Malaysia are diabolical opposites just like UMNO's Malay Nationalism with Malaysian Malaysia.
Malaysian Malaysia is based on a multipluralism doctrine that incorporate multiculturalism, and multiracialism, But what concerns PAS most is that multireligion does not tally with their aspiration for Darul Islam, Islamic theocratic state.
Things went fine and dandy after the General Election till the fomration of Pakatan Rakyat. Karpal Singh tested water to provoke PAS by demanding PAS to put Negara Islam in the back burner for the new upcoming Pakatan Rakyat Government.
That exchange revived PAS's Negara Islam question into the forefront again. Within months also, the Muktamar reinfore NEgara SIlam again and in The Star's Joceline Tan view, there is the return of the Ulama power in PAS.
Karpal's remarks is not without it's political calculation. DAP is better off without a pact with PAS. They have today found a better party to secure Malay votes in PKR and they is the similarity ideologically and multiracial character.
For PAS, events in Perak and Selangor have led certain supporters and leaders to feel short-changed. Anwar personally requested no PAS representatives on the Penang Exco. PAS felt slighted because Anwar did not reciprocate the gesture of two seats for PKR in PAS MB-ed but DAP controlled Perak State Exco.
In Selangor, the public impression is that PAS is sidelined in the administration of Malay majority Selangor. DAP is perceived as in the driver's seat. The Gwo Burne punch up, concerts, pig farm, 100 day celebration donation, and many more incidents are poking into PAS members sensitivity.
Tattered slightly by the partisan political motivation of Abdullah and personal aspirations of certain PAS leaders, the Muzakarah or Muqabalah with UMNO has its basis.
Putting aside the long history of rivalry, UMNO and PAS has more similarity in their struggle to each other than with other parties. The practical difference between UMNO and PAS on Negara Islam lies only with Hukum Hudud, which the latter wish to implement.
Will the discussion lead to anything?
Time will tell or till one become stronger and leave the other aside. The sceptics feel that it will not come down to anything. The Malay psyche only response when there is that sense of threat and desperation.
Currently, it is only Abdullah that is desperate to save his political career and many believed his family financial situation.
PAS is not quite desperate. They are much better off than ever. Why not holding to the current madate? If things go well, they could be running the Federal Government.
The following are two articles from The Star on the Muktamar PAS.
The Star, Monday August 18, 2008---------------------------------
Divided over Anwar’s style
Comment By Baradan Puppusamy
The growing strength of PKR has taken a toll on its Pakatan Rakyat partner PAS, forcing it to choose between staying with its fundamentalist ideology or changing into a more liberal party.
THE speeches and debates at the PAS muktamar in Ipoh over the weekend show how seriously the party is lost in the complex political forest that is the new Malaysia.
While the party reaffirmed its “Islam first, last and forever” ideology, it had no answer to deal with the resurgent multi-ethnic politics, the new force that is best represented by PKR and whose growth and expansion clashes with PAS and its Islam-based perspective of politics.
Multi-racialism could potentially be a deadly virus to PAS, a one-religion party whose doors are shut firm to non-Muslims.
Race-based political parties on the opposite of the political divide also face the same dilemma – how to come to terms with a widely accepted and clearly expanding multi-ethnic political force.
Even nominally multi-racial parties like the DAP or Gerakan face the danger of dilution of political status in the long term if the PKR brand of multi-racialism wins wider acceptance among the people, especially among the economically resurgent Chinese minority.
In the old Parliament, PKR held only one seat and was virtually written off, but today it controls 31 seats. If MPs from Sabah and Sarawak cross over, most are likely to join PKR, not the DAP and least of all PAS.
Not only are the numbers with PKR – now and potentially in the future – and against PAS, only PKR powerhouse Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim enjoys national stature and articulates a multi-ethnic vision of Malaysia that is acceptable to all.
In the new Malaysia where race and religious barriers are gradually coming down, despite some hiccups, PAS as a party founded strictly on Islam faces its greatest dilemma.
Its future depends on how it reinvents itself outside of its traditional role as defender of the Islamic faith. For long, PAS has articulated a vision of an Islamic theocracy in which Muslims and non-Muslims are equal but subject to syariah laws.
This vision conflicts with Anwar’s multi-ethnic vision based on shared common values, and deliberations at the muktamar threw up the contradictions.
Anwar came in for some criticism from delegates and leaders who are unhappy with his “secular politics”.
PAS members also fear that the man who they had once revered before he joined Umno in 1982 might just get enough defections from Barisan to form the next government.
They have already calculated the realignment that the defections would spark and believe that the yet-unborn government would be majority non-Malay and non-Muslim.
“Already Islam is sidelined in Pakatan-ruled states. It will be worse in the proposed Anwar-led new government,” one PAS leader said.
“We fear Islam’s role will be diminished.”
The fear was directly articulated by PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, who said PAS will not support a government that does not give a pre-eminent role to Islam.
“We might consider leaving Pakatan Rakyat,” he said, giving notice that Malay, Muslim supremacy is a prerequisite of any new government.
With that statement came the demand that a PAS leader, Hadi included, and not just Anwar had the right to become prime minister in the event the Barisan government is toppled through defections.
Anwar and PKR are expected to press ahead with the dream of a grand multi-coalition based on common values of human rights, justice and equality.
If such a movement gains ground, PAS will have to radically reinvent itself into a more open and inclusive opposition partner. Otherwise, it will have to return to the backwaters and exist on the fringes of nation politics.
More than anything else, the top PAS leadership is divided over Anwar, his ambition to become prime minister and what it will entail for PAS.
“In the 1999 general election, PAS rode on the wave of sympathy for Anwar and benefited hugely. But in 2008, Anwar rode on our machinery and membership and won big,” said the same PAS leader.
“Some say he is a great asset while others see him as a liability. Can we further the interest of PAS, Islam and an Islamic state by supporting him or should we walk our own independent path? That’s the dilemma,” he said.
PAS sources say the debate is increasingly fierce and they believe a majority could emerge in the months ahead that will demand the party take an independent course minus Anwar and his reform agenda, which they see as “secular” – an ugly word in Islam associated with the west.
Nevertheless, PAS is no pushover, having a card-carrying membership of over one million and an intricate and extensive network of supporters throughout the country.
These and its unshakable belief in Islam give it the confidence to withstand storms.
However, it will pay a heavy price if it disengages from Anwar.
The other alternative – forming an alliance with rivals Umno – seems equally unattractive, both to the party’s rank and file and to non-Malays who had voted PAS and, for the first time, see it as a friend.
“We have been lost in the forest before but emerged renewed and strengthened,” said another PAS leader confidently.
“That’s because we have the eternal guide, Islam.”
The Star Online Monday August 18, 2008
The Ulama take charge again
Analysis by JOCELINE TAN
By the time the PAS muktamar ended, the party’s three ulama superstars had shown that they were again in total control of the party.
THE Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohammed Nizar Jamaluddin is much better looking in person than in pictures.
He is tall, has his mother’s fair Chinese skin and speaks Cantonese with the Chinese reporters covering the PAS muktamar in Ipoh. But it is his polished English that sets him apart.
He is also the new star of PAS and party members have been lining up to have their photographs taken with him.
Nizar, whom party people refer to rather quaintly as “Datuk Seri Engineer Nizar,” now ranks among the “professionals” in the party.
The professional group has been on the rise in PAS since 1998 when the Anwar Ibrahim sacking sent droves of well-educated Malays into PAS.
Their technocratic style and broader worldview was like fresh air blowing into a closed room.
This group did so well in the 2007 party polls they almost eclipsed the conservatives.
But the ascent of the professionals is about to be checked because the three-day muktamar ended yesterday with a clear mandate for the ulama (religious scholars) group to play a more influential role in the party’s future direction.
“The more conservative ulama group will be the ones to watch at next year’s party elections,” said Zulkifli Sulong, editor of the political newsletter Siasah.
The perception is that the young Turks, including deputy president Nasharudin Mat Isa, are a little too impetuous about taking the party forward. They think the party is in uncharted waters and needs the guiding hand of more experienced and conservative ulama.
“We were also dissatisfied with the way the leaders handled the issue. It caused a lot of confusion,” said PAS Youth exco member and lawyer Abdullah Abdul Karim from Pahang.
Members are still unhappy with Nasharudin’s role in the PAS-Umno talks although they have not attacked him directly at the muktamar.
His mistake was going alone to meet the Umno president even though he had the green light from the top. He has been the target of what his friends call fitnah or slander in cyberspace and he will take time to recover.
Nasharudin is seen as part of this new school of ulama who is too modern for the liking of some members.
At last year’s muktamar in Kota Baru, banners hung all over the Kelantan capital had featured Nasharudin alongside Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat and Datuk Seri Hadi Awang.
This year, the banners put up in Ipoh featured only the two senior Tok Gurus.
Nasharudin is no longer seen as a potential party president.
But this muktamar was successful in soothing the misgivings of members over a number of issues.
PAS Perak deputy chief and lawyer Asmuni Awi said the party’s top ulama figures were able to resolve the PAS-Umno talks or muzakarah issue by explaining that such engagement is perfectly permissible under Islam.
The grassroots also had a chance to tell the leaders that any engagement must not extend to joining or cooperating with Umno.
“We also made our stand on Pakatan Rakatan. We will stay with the coalition despite the problems,” said Asmuni.
Members were also assured that the party intends to be the dominant partner or king-maker in the coalition and that their party president Prime Ministerin-waiting.
“Many of us are not in favour of grabbing the federal government. If a party wants to leave the Barisan, that’s fine but I am against enticing individual MPs to jump,” said Asmuni.
Party leaders knew that they were facing an angry group of delegates when the muktamar began on Friday. But they managed things really well, getting their top ulama, including the highly respected Datuk Dr Haron Din to explain things.
“They are the creme de la creme in our party and they put things into the Islamic perspective,” said Kuala Lumpur delegate Dr Rayney Ali.
Members reacted well to Nik Aziz’s statement that any engagement with Umno would be done on PAS’ own terms. He was greeted with cheers from the floor when he said PAS leaders intend to ask Umno leaders why they had failed to implement Islam.
Nik Aziz was ill throughout the muktamar while Dr Haron has been suffering from heart problems for several years and Hadi has lost so much weight because of health problems.
The three ulama superstars are not in the pink of health but they are in total control of the party.