PAS and Ikatan announce alliance, but unclear of direction

PAS president Datuk Seri Hadi Awang (second from left) and Parti Ikatan Bangsa Malaysia president Tan Sri Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir (third from left) during a press conference to announce the new alliance between the two parties, in Kuala Lumpur March 16, 2016. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng
PAS president Datuk Seri Hadi Awang (second from left) and Parti Ikatan Bangsa Malaysia president Tan Sri Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir (third from left) during a press conference to announce the new alliance between the two parties, in Kuala Lumpur March 16, 2016. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

KUALA LUMPUR, March 16 — In a widely-anticipated move, PAS and Parti Ikatan Bangsa Malaysia (Ikatan) announced today their formal political alliance although it is still unclear if the new opposition pact plans to take on rival Pakatan Harapan on top of the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) in the next elections.

PAS president Datuk Seri Hadi Awang said the new pact would act more as an issue-based pressure group that would engage the government “instead of opposing for the sake of opposing”.

He was also reluctant to state if the new pact would continue to push through the party’s hudud agenda, an issue Ikatan president Tan Sri Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir — a former Umno leader of a generation that once rejected the implementation of the Islamic penal law in Malaysia —also deflected when queried repeatedly by the press.

“This alliance is about having a more mature approach to politics and not being fixated on the negatives only. We do not want to oppose blindly and for the sake of opposing,” Abdul Hadi told a packed press conference here.

The PAS president was also coy when asked if he supported the “Citizen’s Declaration”, a movement pushing for Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s ouster led by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

“We will wait for elections,” he told reporters when questioned on the matter after the press conference.

Abdul Kadir, a former federal minister with the Mahathir administration, on the other hand, said the campaign against Najib “is not Ikatan’s business” and that his party and PAS believed reform could be better attained by engaging the government.

“I come from a generation that believes in engaging and not quarrelling all the time… we will engage the government and this is the best method as it would help solve all the pressing problems,” he said.

According to the statement read out by PAS secretary general Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan, the PAS-Ikatan alliance’s campaign would focus mainly on fighting corruption and uniting Malaysians.

But whether or not this meant that PAS was ready to set aside its conservative Islamist agenda remains unclear.

Abdul Hadi insisted, however, that his party has always believed in and pushed for inclusive politics with its brand of political Islam despite allegations that the Islamist party was growing increasingly conservative.

“We have always fought for every race and we have said it before that even if PAS takes over, other races will not be marginalised,” he said.

Abdul Kadir backed Abdul Hadi on this, saying PAS has been committed in championing a brand of Islam that is universal and inclusive.

“It is a strong party and it has championed Islam. Islam teaches us to respect all. We believe PAS is a party for the people,” the former Umno leader said.

The two parties have formed a secretariat that would detail out the bloc’s elections plan in the near future, Takiyuddin said.

Analysts recently said that the emergence of a third political bloc could split the opposition vote although most agreed that this would not have significant impact on Pakatan Harapan and BN.

PAS parted ways with DAP and PKR from the now-defunct Pakatan Rakyat after a fallout over its hudud ambition. It has since flirted with the idea of a political co-operation with arch-rival Umno in a move seemingly aimed at consolidating conservative Malay political power.

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