UMNO leader Alwi Md Che Ahmad said since 2008 PAS has compromised on many aspects of its Islamist ideology, allowed for the mushrooming of two factions with different aspirations and tolerated neo-liberal policies advocated by their Pakatan Rakyat partners, DAP and PKR.
However by virtue of its grassroots strength, PAS remains a formidable force as it has a membership of over one million, a good organisational structure, loyalty through Islamic vows and oath-taking, as well as a robust fund raising capacity, Alwi said.
But the reality on the ground is its top leadership is rocked and divided into the “old school” principles of the ulama against the technocrats (progressives) who tend to practise political science similar to PKR adviser Anwar Ibrahim, said Alwi.
Hence, PAS has a following dubbed as Anwaristas (lately Erdogan Faction) and this has created unease in the PAS central working committee where 70 percent of its 38 members are said to be allied to the group that advocates Anwar’s style of divisive politics, Alwi claimed.
Asked about the examples of PAS compromises, Alwi cited that PAS has overlooked its Islamic nation struggle, which is part of its constitution, has yet to adopt its hudud (syariah criminal enactment), forgotten its welfare state pledges and sacked leaders who are steadfast in upholding Islamic values, such as the former Selangor PAS commissioner Hasan Ali.
“One cannot reinvent ideologies. If UMNO is about Malays, it is logical for it to champion Malay causes. If PAS is about Islam, then it should pursue it. But now, the latter has relented by casting aside its Islamic state struggle.”
It also launches into street protests against western-style entertainment but yet allow such leisure activities to prevail and grow in Pakatan states such as Kelantan, Kedah, Penang and Selangor, he added.
“When you are just about politicking and, not governance, people suffer. Look at Kelantan and Kedah as examples. The former after 30 years of PAS rule, cannot offer a good infrastructure for water supply. This is the reality on the ground.”
Other examples of reaching a crossroads, Alwi said, were leaders who overstay because they are afraid that the party would nosedive if they retire.
“If one analyses, PAS is essentially now in crises almost everywhere. The only states where they do not have problems are the ones where their presence is limited such as Sabah and Sarawak.”
In Kedah, Mentri Besar Azizan Abdul Razak is challenged by two rebel state executive councillors; in Penang, PAS has no say in an increasingly dictatorial-style state government while its state commissioner (Mohd Salleh Man) has yet to be appointed as the president of the state Islamic Council.
At Perak, the ulamas and technocrats are wary of each other, isolating former mentri besar Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin, and in Selangor, its technocrat poster boy – Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad has to deal with the political fallout from the explusion of Hasan.
Hasan Ali was not allowed a chance to defend himself before the order to expel him was made by PAS, Alwi pointed out.
As for Kelantan, its Menteri Besar Nik Aziz Nik Mat, although still revered by some quarters, has overstayed, causing uncertainty in his replacement and in Terengganu, there are concerns about the health of its ulama leaders.
In Pahang, Negeri Sembilan, Malacca and Johor, PAS is squabbling with their DAP and PKR counterparts over seats allocation, Alwi claimed.Mesh it up together, such pressing issues provide an indication that PAS is now at the “crossroads.”
The second echelon of leaders, such as its Deputy President Mohammad Sabu, are an unproven lot, riddled with accusations of either being an ulama or a technocrat, Alwi claimed.
PAS leaders have to find answers on its future direction and the solution cannot be sourced from just compromising too much, Alwi concluded.