IF size does matter in politics, then PAS is definitely back in business after their epic gathering in Terengganu last weekend.
Kuala Nerus town had never before seen so many people. The area is also where the Mentri Besar of Terengganu has his state seat and all those green-clad people must have given Datuk Seri Ahmad Razif Abdul Rahman the jitters.
The optics were fantastic and, more important, the Fastaqim, or “uprising” as it was known, was dominated by young Malays in their teens, 20s and 30s.
It sent out the signal that the party is still relevant and that it has recovered the Malay support it used to command.
PAS members have been rather annoyed with some of the Chinese DAP leaders who have been going on about a Malay tsunami that will sweep Pakatan Harapan into Putrajaya.
“They are dreaming,” said Roslan.
What happened in Terengganu suggests that Pakatan will have to rely on another Chinese tsunami to do well.
PAS president Datuk Seri Hadi Awang arrived at the venue riding pillion on a motorcycle because the whole of Kuala Nerus town was grid-locked. His motorcycle was part of a convoy of hundreds of bikes that seemed to have appeared out of nowhere.
Hadi’s schedule is still quite restricted. His recovery from heart surgery earlier this year has been quite slow, and he made only one speaking appearance at the Fastaqim gathering.
It was quite apparent that the political transition in PAS is already in progress.
The sun is setting for Hadi who will turn 70 this month. His no-nonsense deputy Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man is widely accepted as the rightful successor.
Up till a few months ago, Pakatan leaders were still trying to send emissaries to persuade PAS to cooperate with Pakatan, but the trust and goodwill were gone and the PAS leadership was not interested.
Tuan Ibrahim is also very clear about where PAS stands against Umno and Pakatan in the general election but the problem is he cannot seem to win a seat and his intellectual depth is apparently not on the same level as Hadi’s.
Critics of the party have pointed out that the Terengganu gathering was all show and little substance. Observers were expecting key announcements in connection with the general election and they were disappointed with the political rhetoric.
But this is the second successful rally this year after their purple rally in February, and it was more of a feel-good event with many of the young participants made up of students from religious schools with affiliations to PAS.
The first Fastaqim in Kota Baru last year was about boosting party morale after the departure of the Erdogan-led group to form Amanah. The mood then was sombre and uncertain, and people were unclear about where the party was headed after being expelled from Pakatan Rakyat.
The party has regained its centre of gravity, and is back where it feels most comfortable even though it is going to lose seats in the general election.
The PAS gathering almost drowned out TV3’s Jom Heboh carnival going on at the same time in the centre of town.
The party collected some RM300,000 and several ladies removed their gold chains and bracelets to donate. One of the women who handed over her gold necklace was the wife of the organising chairman Nasrudin Hassan.
Nasrudin, who is Temerloh MP, had hit a low point after losing in the contest for the party vice-presidency. But he did not sulk or pull back into the shadows but instead threw himself into organising the gathering and has revived his political standing.
PAS together with a few other mosquito parties are now the third coalition known as Gagasan Sejahtera. Some see it as a kingmaker, others have dismissed it as a spoiler but few believe it will do well in the polls.
Former Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim also made an appearance. He did not join PAS as speculated but pledged his support for the party. Khalid gets the VIP treatment in PAS because he puts his money where his mouth is.
The numbers will be hard to match for Pakatan Harapan which is organising an anti-kleptocracy rally in Petaling Jaya in a fortnight’s time.
Some in PAS have questioned why Pakatan is having a rally in Petaling Jaya where it has already maxed out on Chinese support. They say Pakatan should take the litmus test with a rally in Johor which it is planning to capture in the general election.
The PAS show was in stark contrast to the launch of Pakatan Harapan in Johor the same weekend.
The launching ceremony in Tampoi featured big names like Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Lim Kit Siang, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Salahudin Ayub and Datuk Saifuddin Nasution.
It seemed like a rather low-key affair given the coalition’s ambitions in Johor. In fact, it was little more than a ceramah apart from some fireworks lighting up the sky towards the end.
The crowd would have been more impressed had the speakers indicated what they intend to do in Johor that is different from what the Barisan Nasional government is doing. It would also have lit a spark if they had dropped hints about potential mentri besar candidates.
People voted with their emotions in 2013 without caring which party or individual would lead the state or country. The signs this time around are that they will be more discriminating about candidates and leadership.
Instead, the speakers dished out the usual fare – kleptocracy, demonising the Prime Minister and his wife, accusing PAS of accepting dedak and lots of colourful name-calling. And they managed to collect only RM5,117 from the crowd.
Pakatan leaders have shown that they are experts at criticising others but they need to convince voters that they can provide a better alternative to what Johoreans have now.
The Terengganu show must have rattled Dr Mahathir. His coalition had lost face and he lashed out at PAS the next day in his chedet blog. He said PAS had not contributed anything to the Malays or Islam since the day it was formed and accused the party of dividing the Malays.
He rehashed all those things he used to say about PAS when he was Prime Minister – how PAS accused others of being kafir or infidels, how their supporters refused to pray in the same mosque as Umno people, and how some PAS members divorced their spouses or disassociated with their parents because of politics.
Roslan, who is also the communications director of PAS, was so irritated that he took to Facebook to declare Dr Mahathir as the “eternal enemy of PAS”.
Umno was also closely watching the Malay tsunami brought on by PAS.
Terengganu is seen as a swing state where seats are won and lost by narrow majorities. After last weekend, Umno cannot take it easy in the state.
“Why do people go for the opposition in this state? They are looking for hope. If Umno does not put up good candidates, there is little hope,” said Datuk Wan Albakri Mohd Nor, chairman of Masjid Almuktafi Billah Shah in Kuala Terengganu.
For several years, locals would joke about an assemblyman who had only Form Three schooling but was made a state exco member. Umno in Terengganu is also famous for infighting and sabotage.
Urban Malay voters in Terengganu are also no different from their counterparts in the Klang Valley, otherwise PAS would not have made a clean sweep of the Kuala Terengganu parliamentary seat and the four state seats in the area.
In Kuala Nerus, where the Fastaqim was held, PAS won the parliamentary and three state seats. The sole Umno survivor there was the Mentri Besar who won in Seberang Takir.
The Kuala Nerus MP is Dr Khairuddin Aman Razali of PAS. He is better known as Khairuddin Al-Takiri, the YB who drives a sports car and whose second wife is a multi-millionaire who owns a cosmetics company.
The thing is that PAS has many qualified people to put up as candidates. Umno needs to upgrade its quality of candidates.
“The battle in Terengganu will be between Umno and PAS. The new parties who claim they can win do not understand the thinking here. New parties with leaders who jump all over will find it hard to be accepted. It’s a question of trust,” said Wan Albakri.