KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 19 — PAS leaders insist the Islamist party remains united and is displaying maturity in its last congress ahead of the general election, with its central leadership pushing for inclusiveness among all Malaysians with pragmatic policies while the wings focus on traditional themes of hudud and conservatism.
During the three-day conference in its Kelantan political fortress, the traditionally-conservative central leadership shied away from discussing the implementation of the controversial hudud criminal law and punishment, concentrating instead on practical policies under its “welfare state” manifesto. But the topics still came up courtesy of the Youth, women and scholars (ulama) wings.
“These differences are not because of difference of ideals, but because of difference in maturity. It depends whether you understand the struggle and the strategy of PAS,” PAS Muslimat or women’s wing information chief Aiman Athirah told The Malaysian Insider.
In his policy speech at the opening of the muktamar, PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang focussed on PAS’s plans to improve Malaysia’s economy should Pakatan Rakyat (PR) come to power and skirted around hudud and the implementation of the Islamic state concept.
But the veteran politician could not avoid touching on the party’s cores issues yesterday, after PAS continued to find itself the target of critics who complained of the party’s apparent failure to stick to its ideals just six months before Parliament is dissolved and elections loom.
He would not expressly state if PAS would push ahead with its hudud agenda but appeared to suggest that the matter had to be shelved for the sake of its non-Muslim partners in PR. “We want to rule a country, if it’s just PAS, then it will be impossible (for us) to rule,” he told reporters.
But Aiman blamed the apparent posturing for the party to return to its Islamist ideals was the result of its political foes’ machinations.
“Confusion happened because some of our members fell for our enemies’ propaganda,” she said, referring to accusations that the party is straying from its roots.
“There is no issue of us rejecting the leadership of ulama ... It would’ve needed to go through the muktamar,” she added.
PAS Youth chief Nasruddin Tantawi also defended the wing’s conservative and fundamental views despite the leadership’s move to smoothen its policies in line with PR’s manifesto.
“Pemuda has always been like that, more vocal, louder and critical,” he said.
“When we criticise Harakah, leaders, that is a sign that we care, we want them to be better in the future,” Nasruddin said, referring to criticisms about the party organ’s liberal views.
PAS vice-president Salahuddin Ayub said controversial issues cropped up in the muktamar because the party leadership wanted to get feedback from all delegates.
“We’re not being soft, we’re giving as much chance as possible for delegates to speak, it’s a precious culture,” he told The Malaysian Insider, echoing Abdul Hadi’s opinion that the diversity of views is part of a democratic culture in PAS.
“We’ve never stopped anyone from offering their views or criticism. If the leadership, delegates give any opinions or criticism we’d accept,” he added.
He also said this openness will help the party build a positive image unlike others.
“It is our high commitment that PAS doesn’t turn out to be a ‘bootlicking party’,” he added.
PAS is looking at contesting some 70 out of the 222 federal seats in the next general election, leaving the rest to its PR allies DAP and PKR.
PAS delegates at the muktamar said they want Abdul Hadi to be prime minister if PR captures Putrajaya although the three parties have agreed that the pact’s de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is the logical choice for the post.
The ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) is expected to win the elections with its traditional strength in rural areas and also Sabah and Sarawak, giving Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak his personal mandate to continue leading the government.