Monday, March 7, 2011


In the unfolding democratic revolutions of the Arab world the Pas’ stream of losses in by-elections in recent months is telling of the democratic distresses in Islam and it can prove to be terminal for the party.

While it is clearly indicated the Islamic party has lost the popular support it gained in the March 8, 2008 general elections, the fact the party is not equipped to overcome its constitutional, democratic and leadership crises forces the conclusion that the disease that had struck the Pas is a killer.

Who is really the leader in Pas? Is it the party president, Datuk Seri Haji Abdul Hadi Awang, 63, or does the power actually reside in the claimant to the throne, the stoic Datuk Haji Nik Aziz Nik Mat, the older Tuan Guru (Teacher), who, at 78and despite being in and out of hospital, has displayed a singularly beautiful temper that burst out repeatedly against the whole party leadership in the last couple of years.

The troubles that brewed first over the president’s inclination to discuss a “Unity Government” with Umno and the Barisan Nasional (BN) then turned into a nasty personal spat between Nik Aziz and the president’s deputy, Nasharudin Isa, that dragged the stoical Nik Aziz into a waste of nepotism.

He had been believed to have planned to appoint his son-in-law, Arriffahmi, as his successor, and his protégé, Husam Musa, the brightest spark in the Pas government in Kelantan, he had wanted to kick upstairs in the party's hierarchy and shunted to Kuala Lumpur.

Nik Aziz is the general guide (mursyidul Am) and elected by the council of scholars (Dewan Ulama) consisting of 15 members, all of whom are elected by the party representatives to the general assembly.

Hadi Awang, as president, is elected by the party representatives to the general assembly held once in three years.

Memories of party members do not admit of such a conflict between the mursyidul am and the president.

But this is a conflict of power that has made history and its expression as a serial burst of temper that began in 2009 and has not shown any sign of relief is best kept in a space capsule.

The party has had to pay heavily in losses of voters’ support. It has so far trailed through four by-elections in which the party lost and one more that reduced the winning votes from a full basket to a handful.

At the same time it’s a mess of constitutional, leadership and personal conflicts that visited the Pas after 19 years of Nik Aziz at the helm of the state government and as state party chief.

Following the differences between him and the president’s men over the proposed “Unity Government” discussions with Umno, the old man was reported on 16 July to suddenly lash out at the party deputy president, Nasharudin Isa, who had retained his position in the party’s supreme council election 10 days before.

Nasharudin, a mild-mannered scholar and among the best there is in the party was contested by Husam Musa from Kelantan and Mat Sabu from Penang on 6 June 2009.

It became clear from the ramblings of the party’s general guide he had wanted Nasharudin to make way for his protégé, Husam Musa, whom he wanted out of Kelantan to open the way for his son-in-law he had earlier appointed as CEO of the state’s commercial arm.

Husam garnered 281 votes against Nasharuddin’s 480 in the contest. The third candidate, Mat Sabu, won 261 votes.

On 16 June 2009 the old man thundered against Nasharudin ‘for not losing the contest to Husam Musa’.

He asked Nasharudin to vacate the Bachok parliamentary constituency the man represented and get out of Kelantan – a hit to the prostrate followed by a kick on the ass of the party deputy president.

The party, reeling in an agony of faith and of morale, never recovered.

It’s an infection of a super ego that has become day-by-day a sickness.

Nasharudin who apparently swooped himself into meditation mode for more than a year, remained silent in obvious political pain.

In the enfoldment of the violent schisms in Islam and the recent surge for democratic rights and of freedoms in the Arab world, how can the erudite gentleman explain the maladies that have struck Islam in his home turf now becomes mysterious.

Is this where we can find the element of uniformity in Islam? Is the egophiliac the final construction of Iqbal’s Secret of the Self or has there been a gross misreading of his Asrar-i-Khudi, with the magic of the “I AM” finally becoming a sub-equation of the wild over-empowerment of the political ego that is corruptible, and is corruptible absolutely in self-structured absolutism?

It did not take long for Nik Aziz and the Pas to face the consequence of his irascibility when a Kelantan state constituency, Manek Urai, fell vacant.

In the by-election of 14 July 2009 the Pas majority of 1352 votes won in March 2008 had been reduced to a meager 65.

Nasharudin visited the constituency during the by-election. But he remained silent in the lush speculation whether he would or would not speak.

The Pas was hit hard. Had it been generally clear at that time that the aged general guide had succumbed to senility and had wanted to also oust his protégé, Husam Musa, from Kelantan to make way for his son-in-law to succeed him, the party could have fallen straightaway into the slough of despond.

But most in the party did not know. Nik Aziz’s daughter, Nik Amalina, was to write in the net about the alleged nepotism later.

In the contrasts between the chief minister/general guide with the president and the deputy president, Nik Aziz, likening the Pas as a ship, claimed to be the “captain”, while Hadi and Nasarudin were merely the “anchorman” and the “oarsman”.

That’s a serious constitutional matter the party leaders should have found occasion to officially discuss and determined who, indeed, is “captain of the ship”.

But while the “ship” was floundering in troubled waters and the old general guide had been summoning the party leaders to his office in Kelantan to be told, the president, his deputy, the chief of the council of scholars and the secretary-general jointly and severally opted to remain silent like the whole caper had been a non-issue.

Party members panicked. The party was not stable and the constitutional integrity of the Islamic party is fictional.

Under pressure the Pas could have disintegrated at that point.

Nik Aziz Nik Mat is not a trifle. The charismatic religious scholar is well-known throughout the region and in the Islamic world. But his charm in Malaysia is certainly on the wane. He lost Galas, Kelantan on 4 Nov. 2010 by 1190 votes to Umno. Pas had won Galas in March 2008.

Then the party fell in Tenang, Johor by 3707 votes on 30 Jan. 2011. Tenang was won by the BN but with a smaller majority in 2008.

On 6 March 2011, two days before the third anniversary of the Pas’ big win on 8 March 2008, the party lost by larger majorities in Merlimau, Melaka (3643 votes) and in Kerdau, Pahang (2724 votes).

The old scholar was reported to be ranting against Malays for not supporting his party in Tenang, a certain sign of fatigue and weariness of one who had served with diligence from 1967 and who should have retired.

Without change, the Pas is likely to lose Kedah in the next general elections. It may also lose Kelantan. --- a. ghani ismail, 8 March, 2011

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