Pas president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang seems to have mellowed in his stance against Umno. FILE PIC

AFTER nearly four decades of intense controversy over “Amanat Haji Hadi” (Hadi’s decree or mandate) that divided Muslims, the question now is whether Pas’ labelling of Umno members as infidels has abated.

On April 7, 1981 during a ceramah at Kampung Banggol, Peradong in Kuala Terengganu, Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang declared that whoever supported Umno were infidels and it drove a wedge between the two Malay parties. The issue has remained political since.

Hadi never retracted that mandate. It became the barrier that divorced the Malay/Muslim supporters of Pas and Umno for 38 years. But the unthinkable happened at the 64th Pas Muktamar in Gong Badak in September last year when Hadi gave his blessings and redefined cooperation with Umno in matters that are of mutual benefit and to avoid matters that are against party principles.

Since then, Hadi has been consistent in his statement that cooperation with Umno as an opposition front is important. From a fanatical Islamist leader during his younger years, Hadi seems to have mellowed in his stance against Umno. But he is still not committing to a binding cooperation that could place both parties under one symbol.

He did try to prove that Pas could work in a loose coalition with Umno splinter, Semangat 46, led by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah in 1988, hoping to gain some ground in the 1990 general election; and again in 1995 under Angkatan Perpaduan Ummah, which included Berjasa, Hamim and Kimma. Except for Kelantan, Pas failed in other states. In the 1999 general election, Pas captured Terengganu, not because it was strong, but because it was riding on former deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s infamous “black eye” issue.

In the 2004 general election, Hadi failed to retain Terengganu. Rumours then were that Pas supporters became greedy with the spoils of “war”. Its tyrannical approach, shutting down Umno/Barisan Nasional assets built for the public, made voters angry and frustrated. Pas tried its luck again with Pakatan Rakyat from 2008 to 2015, where it worked with PKR and DAP. It did not work out well as Pas supporters started questioning the rationale of cooperating with DAP, a sworn enemy.

In 2018, Hadi decided that Pas would fight the battle alone. Pas took advantage of the people’s dissatisfaction with Barisan Nasional. Pas captured Terengganu, retained Kelantan, and won more seats in Kedah and Pahang. Hadi may have realised that it had better luck fighting a general election on its own rather than depending on others.

Terengganu Umno liaison chief Datuk Seri Ahmad Said said the cooperation with Pas in Kelantan, Terengganu and Kedah did not mean much because these are predominantly Malay states, but Pas needed to show its support for Umno/BN in other West Coast states.

“Pas’ sincerity in this cooperation should be reflected in earnest in the West Coast states. The Cameron Highlands and Semenyih by-elections showed we can muster Malay votes when we are united and work together to win. The real test is the 15th General Election,” said Ahmad,

After nearly 40 years, Pas under Hadi may have finally found a worthy ally in Umno. A cooperation forged for the sake of Malays and Islam seems to work well and is attractive to the Malay voters rather than politicising Islam to win votes.

Pas and Umno may have to bury the hatchet over the Amanat Haji Hadi controversy following a willingness to sit in discussions and forge cooperation with its old nemesis. But hardcore followers Pas followers may still hang the poster of Hadi’s decree on the wall walls of their houses.

A real test of Umno-Pas solidarity is in areas like the Kedah plains where Pas Pondok and Padi (Pas thrives in padi areas that would ordinarily host a pondok, being a traditional religious learning institution) have co-existed for the longest time, and where Pas the Pas-Umno relationship is toxic.

However, the statement that Pas would support Umno splinter Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad if a no-confidence vote was raised vote was taken in the next parliamentary session speaks volumes about Hadi’s resolve to unite the Malays, at least until the next general election.

The Pas-Umno cooperation appeared to have worked in the Cameron Highlands and Semenyih by-elections, and the cooperation may continue in the coming Rantau by-election. Pas did not contest in Cameron Highlands and Semenyih, but threw its weight to supportbehind candidates chosen by BN.

A major risk facing this renewed alliance, however, is the Malay unity plank being becoming a turn-off for non-Malay voters. Hadi and followers his followers will have to fashion a narrative for non-Malay voters. Yet another faultline is Pas losing some supporters to Pakatan Harapan coalition parties such as Amanah.

For Hadi, his political career hadhas been a roller-coaster of sorts, and at 71 years old, he may see his last chance at contributing in Parliament and realising his ambition of upholding Islam as accorded in the Federal Constitution. This last stretch may be the most important aspect in his political career and while his weekly usrah had been confined to the understanding of Islam, a change is observed in the style of presentation in his political ceramah.

Hadi’s speeches are no longer as fiery as when he was younger but he still maintains a sizeable audience among his loyal supporters. The Pas state government led by his former political secretary, Dr Ahmad Samsuri Mokhtar, also provided space for his mentor to give tazkirah to civil servants once in a while in the Dewan Besar at Wisma Darul Iman. Hadi is also more media friendly. Prior to the 2004 general election, he avoided the media and at times took pot shots at shots, calling reporters “monkeys”.

It has, however, been observed that Hadi would avoid the media when major issues were highlighted and let his lieutenants respond to questions. Pas’ social media platforms have been active in defending its leaders and policies, and explaining matters of public interest, and Hadi was always given room to project his thoughts in carefully worded statements.

And the fact that some of Hadi’s statements have been aired live on Facebook and shared in closed WhatsApp groups which included the media, it showed that he did not really need to meet reporters to further explain his thoughts.

For someone who has been following him a long time, I must say that Hadi smiles a lot more now than before.

The writer is NST Terengganu bureau chief

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