I’ve written about this a couple of times before. For The Edge, for MalaysiaKini.
I’m talking about PAS’ support for Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, in particular for him to remain prime minister at least until GE15.
Now I’m writing about it again here, for this publication. The reason is because this issue or rather this support by PAS for Mahathir keeps coming up. Brought up by PAS itself!
Hence I can’t help but wonder why is PAS doing this over and over again. Its leaders, including secretary-general Takiyuddin Hassan and in particular party president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, have repeatedly expressed support for the PM. Now we are hearing of PAS wanting to table in parliament a confidence vote for the PM.
It’s as if PAS, especially Hadi, is trying very hard to convince all and sundry of its sincerity in supporting Mahathir.
And the support baffles quite a number of people including yours truly. Why? Because Mahathir has always attacked PAS hard from the days he was in Umno. He continues to do so now although not that hard, so to speak. Still, he has never shied away from saying he is against the PAS “brand” of Islam, something he holds on to this day.
Therefore, many political observers and analysts believe if there is a strong leader who can put PAS in its place, that leader must surely be Mahathir. He has never minced words when launching verbal attacks on PAS.
So why is PAS going out its way to say they support Mahathir? Is it out of true love for the 94-year-old prime minister? Or for the sake of race and religion? Good. Anything else?
Could it be that PAS believes Islamic issues can be used “better” against Mahathir as he can be “painted” not “Islamic” enough? Hence PAS believes it’s much easier to topple a Pakatan Harapan government led by Mahathir?
Some political analysts say if that is the belief then PAS could be right. But there are others who say such a belief is wrong because Mahathir is not an ordinary foe, one who has been proven lethal in dealing with his enemies, including PAS.
Or could it be that this support is to drive a wedge between Mahathir and his agreed upon successor Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim? Quite a number of people in the political fraternity certainly think so.
But, we have observers and PAS watchers who believe it more about Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim rather than Mahathir. They say it’s all about stopping Anwar from becoming prime minister.
PAS’ bitterness with Anwar goes a long way back. In 1982 as president of ABIM or Muslim Youth Movement, Anwar accepted the invitation of Mahathir to join Umno. Mahathir was then Umno president and the country’s fourth prime minister.
Anwar’s entry into Umno was a big boost for the party. With his “Islamic credentials” Anwar helped Umno uplift its image to win the hearts and minds of the Malay-Muslim community.
To PAS, Anwar joining Umno was a big blow. They had hoped for Anwar to join them. After all, many of his friends like the late Datuk Fadzil Noor, Mohamad Sabu and even Hadi were in ABIM. At the very least PAS expected Anwar to support and campaign for them in the general election which was approaching then. But it was not to be. And to cut long story short, the Mahathir-led BN won the 1982 general election convincingly with the help of Anwar. PAS won only five parliamentary seats.
To say PAS was angry with Anwar is an understatement, considering Anwar had also attacked the party when he was in Mahathir’s cabinet although some quarters claimed he at some point tried to clinch an Umno-PAS tie-up. This however cannot be independently verified.
Nevertheless, it is said that PAS had never forgiven Anwar for that. But it did. When Anwar was sacked by Mahathir in 1998, the party supported him and joined the Reformasi movement which Anwar launched. That has got a lot to do with the big role played by the PAS president then, Fadhil Noor, who was a very close friend of Anwar.
But, it’s a different story with Hadi. It is an open secret that Hadi has had a distinct dislike for Anwar, to put it mildly, since their days in ABIM.
A political analyst reminded me that since the days of Pakatan Rakyat there were conflicts between the Hadi-headed PAS and PKR. And he said the clashes were actually personal differences between Hadi and Anwar.
Hadi, he said, never agreed with Anwar on many matters including the Kajang Move and the Selangor menteri besar issue.
However, some analysts tell me PAS is worried that Anwar with his “religious background” and knowledge of the party can “kill off” PAS when he takes over Pakatan Harapan. But this according to an observer “is a possibility but it remains a perception only”.
Long time PAS watcher Mohd Sayuti Omar also opines the reason PAS wants Mahathir to remain prime minister “because they do not want Anwar to be PM”. And to Sayuti there are no other reasons why Hadi does not like Anwar except personal reasons.
“Hatred of the PAS president but not the party itself. It’s personal anger and hatred. That’s why I believe if Hadi is no longer president the party members will not view Anwar the way they see him now.
“Look, even Tuan Ibrahim can join Anwar for coffee at the café in parliament not long ago.”
Tuan Ibrahim he was referring to is PAS deputy president Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man.
But the thing is: Hadi is still solid as PAS president, and PAS members will always listen to their president.
(Mohsin Abdullah is a veteran journalist and now a freelancer who writes about this, that and everything else.)