KUANTAN, June 21 — It may be an election year for PAS, but if you were here at its annual congress, many things would suggest that party polls are not the top priority for the Islamist party.
Why do we say that? Well, for one, its top leaders have won virtually most of their posts uncontested, despite it being a party election year.
PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang and his deputy Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man have already retained their posts uncontested.
Datuk Nik Muhammad Zawawi Salleh went up the ladder yesterday from deputy to chief of PAS’ powerful clergy wing after he won the post uncontested, succeeding Datuk Mahfodz Mohamed.
Senator Datuk Johari Mat was also announced as PAS Ulama’s deputy chief, while the vice-chief post will go to Khirul Muntanazar Ismail. Both men won the posts uncontested.
And for its Youth wing, outgoing PAS Youth deputy chief Khairil Nizam Khirudin won the post of wing’s chief uncontested, succeeding his predecessor Muhammad Khalil Abdul Hadi.
In addition, his new deputy Ahmad Fadhli Shaari and vice-chief Afnan Hamimi Taib Azamudden, also obtained their posts uncontested.
Which is odd, considering that the point of a party election is, of course, an actual contest.
And today, as PAS delegates convene at its 65th Muktamar or annual congress to look to leaders as to where the party will head for the coming future, one major theme has been consistent during the annual congress of its Youth and Ulama wings for the past two days.
Since Wednesday, the PAS leadership has undertaken great pains to appeal to its members of the need of the “taawun siyasi” (political cooperation) with former enemy Umno, and by extension Barisan Nasional.
As both parties have been “warring” with each other since PAS left Barisan Nasional in 1978, it was expected that this year’s PAS Youth and Ulama wings’ Muktamar, which usually consists of fiery speakers, would discuss the matter in length.
However, this year’s PAS Youth and Ulama wings’ congress paled in comparison to their previous years, and if there was any objection to the PAS-Umno union, it was certainly not brought up during most of the delegates’ speeches.
Party top leaders including outgoing Youth chief Muhammad Khalil was especially vocal on the subject, frequently reminding delegates in his opening address on Wednesday that the party’s political dynamism throughout its 65-year history is reflected by its ability to forge ties with other parties and sever them when necessary.
Best friends now?
Despite the two parties’ contentious past, the message from the PAS leadership is clear — Umno is now an Opposition party, and therefore mutual cooperation is crucial to ensure proper checks-and-balances against the Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration.
Outgoing PAS Ulama chief Mahfodz in his address yesterday even reminded delegates that the cooperation between the parties is a nightmare to PH as it has been successful in recent by-elections.
He even claimed that the alliance could result in a possible gain of 65 per cent of the Malay vote in the 15th general election.
Newly-minted Dewan Ulama chief Mohd Zawawi also stressed the fact that if the two parties along with friendly Sabah and Sarawak component parties were to combine, they could garner more than 130 federal seats.
However, the common theme among both leaders is that the partnership is not merely political, but also for the defence of Islam.
Wing leaders alleged that a PH administration has weakened Muslim interests, and that the community is now under threat by liberals and those seeking to put other religions on an equal footing with Islam in Malaysia.
PAS leaders such as Dewan Ulama Information chief Asri Daud reminded delegates that DAP, just over 50 years old, has the highest number of seats in its history with 42 parliamentary seats.
Alluding that DAP has made no secret about its supposed role in infringing Islamic sovereignty, Asri said the political cooperation was critical to uphold the needs of Islamic law and the Muslim community.
Whispers of dissent
But despite the best efforts by PAS leaders to push the idea of an alliance with Umno, there were attempts by some delegates to challenge this.
Kelantan PAS Ulama speaker Ishak Hassan had said that although he agreed with the cooperation, there are many grassroots members in the state who opposed the union due to Umno’s past treatment of Kelantan when it held federal power, such as denying it oil royalties and even blocking hudud laws from being implemented in the state.
“On the cooperation with Umno, I agree but we have to be careful. Umno has betrayed PAS in Kelantan before,” he said, stating further that Umno members should ‘taubat’ (repent) if they want to be fully accepted.
One such delegate is Hafizuddin Mohd Nor from Klang in Selangor. The 30-year-old said PAS, faced with multiple challenges, has to build upon its own strengths following the Islamic model.
“It is still too early to say exactly how the relationship will affect us. It ought to be studied in depth, especially for the grassroots, which we are sure the leaders will do in time.
“Whatever the case, we remain optimistic about and confident in the abilities of the leadership to see us through,” he said.
Kedah PAS Youth chief Nasrun Othman said that cooperation with Umno is acceptable, as long as the Islamic party is the dominant partner in the union.
He said the cooperation is now necessary for the sake of the ummah, and that all parties including Umno must endeavour to ensure Malaysia’s governance is led by Islam.
“Unity of the ummah brings benefits, on the condition that PAS must be the leader on top, so as to ensure the Constitution, the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet can be defended.
“It is also pivotal that we make it clear to our friends in Umno that our principle is to defend God’s religion, not merely for the sake of race, the Malay language and the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, but above all else, the defence of Islam, for Islam is the highest and none other is higher than Islam,” he said during the first day of the Youth’s Muktamar at Bukit Gambang Resort.