AT MUKTAMAR, FINAL CHANCE FOR PAS TO SHOW IT IS A CREDIBLE POLITICAL PARTY – NOT ANOTHER BOUGHT-OVER-BY-NAJIB STOOGE

The 63rd PAS muktamar, set to take place at the end of this month in Kedah, is more than just a PAS affair.

PAS leaders have given mixed signals on a number of issues, including the party’s position in the Selangor government as well as cooperation with PKR and Bersatu.

The outcome of the muktamar is expected to provide certainty on these issues.

It will also help other opposition parties to decide on the course they wish to chart ahead of the 14th general election.

Here are the seven things to watch out for at the muktamar, set to be hosted in Alor Setar from April 27 to May 1.

1) Relationship with PKR and Bersatu

PAS has repeatedly stated that it will not work with any parties that has ties to DAP and Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah), a relationship that PKR and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) has refused to sever.

Despite this stance, there had been confused signals with regard to negotiations with Bersatu for the general election.

While PAS deputy president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man had led the efforts to explore cooperation with Bersatu, his president Abdul Hadi Awang had repeatedly downplayed the move.

The talks appear to have stalled now but it remains to be seen if the muktamar will put the nail in the coffin or continue exploring avenues for cooperation.

Several PAS divisions, including all 13 in Penang, have called for ending ties with PKR ahead of the muktamar.

Like PAS’ relationship with Bersatu, the muktamar will also need to decide on its future with PKR.

However, deciding on PKR will not be as easy as Bersatu due to PAS’ position in Selangor.

2) PAS’ position in Selangor

PAS has three of its leaders as part of the Selangor government, namely Iskandar Abdul Samad, Zaidy Abdul Talib and Ahmad Yunus Hairi.

If PAS were to formally sever ties with PKR, it is unlikely the three can remain in the PKR-led Selangor government.

The muktamar may need to decide on whether the three should also quit the Selangor government, or stay on, and put Pakatan Harapan in an awkward position to decide whether to sack the three or not.

Selangor PKR has been insistent on keeping PAS despite deteriorating relations to ensure a strong majority in the state assembly as well as to maintain it in the next general election.

Iskandar, the Selangor PAS commissioner, may also be on shaky ground as he defends his PAS vice presidency in the party election.

While PAS has ensured no contest for most of its top posts, including Takiyuddin Hassan dropping out, PAS information chief Nasruddin Hasan appeared to have the blessing to go ahead in the PAS vice presidents’ race.

Iskandar has been insistent on cooperating with PKR despite party grassroots demanding otherwise.

3) Relationship with Umno and Malay unity

As PAS drifted away from other opposition parties, it has flirted with Umno on the basis of Malay and Muslim unity.

PAS has repeatedly denied formal cooperation with Umno but the muktamar’s signal may embolden or discourage those advocating deeper ties.

This may include some form of cooperation with Umno in the general election, even though it’s unlikely for PAS be a full partner as Umno is unlikely to make major electoral concessions.

The muktamar, like its previous one, is expected to reiterate its Malay and Muslim credentials, compared to its “PAS for All” image that it had built when it was part of Pakatan Rakyat.

At the last muktamar, PAS Youth leaders were dressed in the outfit of Malay warriors with liberal display of the keris, something that has been more common for Umno.

4) Act 355 amendment

The PAS leadership has used its proposed amendment to the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 as a battle cry to rally supporters and this is expected to continue being the theme at the muktamar.

The proposed amendment was tabled in the last Parliament sitting but was suspended before it could be debated.

The muktamar is likely to indicate whether it is satisfied with the progress.

It is also expected to train its guns on other parties that have been reluctant in clearly supporting the amendment which will allow the Syariah courts to mete out tougher punishments.

5) The 14th general election

With PAS appearing cold on cooperating with other main opposition parties, its dynamics for the 14th general election has changed.

The party leadership has indicated it intends to go beyond the usual seats it has contested and they are likely to provide a clearer picture at the muktamar.

The muktamar will also be a litmus test on whether the grassroots supports PAS’ plan to press on in the general election alone.

The strategy, while promising huge returns for PAS, is risky as the party could also suffer heavy losses and leave it in the wilderness for the next five years.

6) Abdul Hadi’s leadership

This would be Abdul Hadi Awang’s 15th year as PAS president, making him the longest serving president in the party’s history.

Behind the scenes, PAS had ensured that there would be no contest for the top positions in the party, including in all its wings.

The fact that aspiring candidates were prepared to dropout to comply with this shows that the current leadership is in a strong position.

While Abdul Hadi may be in an undisputed position, it remains to be seen if the 70-year-old will give an indication of a succession plan amid occasional health issues.

His son, Muhammad Khalil, is also set to become the PAS Youth chief, having won the position uncontested.

7) The fate of PAS rebels

Most of the PAS’ progressives quit the party to form splinter Parti Amanah Negara after they were purged in the previous party election.

However, some from that faction have remained, such as Mahfuz Omar, Syed Azman Syed Ahmad and Husam Musa.

Husam was eventually sacked from the party.

It remains to be seen if the muktamar will press for the sacking of the remaining members or continue to tolerate their vocal stance.

MKINI