Tensions mount in Pakatan as PAS leaders call for hudud laws to be implemented quickly while DAP's Karpal Singh roars against it. But it could well be a ploy by each party to woo its core supporters, leaving PKR isolated.
THE pledge by PAS to set up an Islamic state is publicly known but it has taken a new dimension with senior PAS leaders now openly calling for Islamic laws to be speedily implemented in the country.
The latest statement supporting hudud and urging its speedy implementation comes from none other than PAS spiritual adviser Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat himself, who wrote in his blog tokguru.com that implementation of hudud should be hastened because enforcing it was an obligation for Muslims and not an option.
He went on to defend hudud in general and PAS rule in Kelantan in particular and the passage of the Syariah Criminal Code Enactment some 19 years ago (which includes hudud) in Kelantan but became unenforceable due to a letter from then Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Whatever the case, PAS is facing a crucial general election and wants to do well. However, it is also facing a backlash from its core constituents conservative rural Malays who are unhappy with the party's failure to defend hudud, something which PAS has always defended.
This core group of supporters view DAP, PAS' partner in Pakatan Rakyat, as a Chinese-based, secular party and Karpal's downright rejection of hudud, while valid and legally correct, creates a political muddle for the Pakatan coalition.
The coalition is headed for a “do-or-die” battle with Barisan Nasional and can ill-afford a distraction like hudud but Karpal can be adamant to the point of enraging the Anwarinas the group of PAS leaders that take a liberal view and believe that winning comes first and other matters like hudud can be resolved later.
The saying “they sleep together but have different dreams” is appropriate here because their attitudes towards hudud is diametrically dissimilar, divergent and conflicting.
DAP and PAS are poles apart but political expediency and the taste of power have brought them to the discussion table. Their desire to capture Putrajaya holds them together.
While PAS is a religious party that is based entirely on Islam and sees implementation of hudud as a prerequisite, DAP is a secular party that is happy with the laws of the country and wants the system to be maintained.
So far, Karpal is the only DAP leader who has spoken up against hudud while his fellow DAP leaders have remained silent for political expediency.
MCA has also stepped up its criticism against DAP, saying its leaders had now become apologists of PAS with some DAP leaders now behaving more like PAS than PAS itself.
Stoning to death for adultery, chopping off limbs for stealing and public whipping for consuming alcohol are unacceptable in a modern and secular society like ours but PAS is bent on instituting these punishments.
Its leaders, some of whom up until now have been seen as liberals, such as Nik Aziz and deputy president Mohamed Sabu, are now openly calling for hudud laws to be implemented.
Mat Sabu even said the Federal Constitution would be amended and hudud law proclaimed when Pakatan captures Putrajaya.
Since winning big in the 2008 general election and nearly unseating Barisan, the senior PAS leaders have carefully skirted around divisive issues like hudud.
They preferred to play to the gallery and court non-Malay support by keeping divisive issues on the back burner, with the hope that with non-Malay support, coupled with their traditional Malay base, they would finally be able to ride in to power.
They have based their calculations on the fact that non-Malays have permanently lost their fear of rule under an Islamist party and would eventually support PAS coming to power and, given time, accept hudud and other forms of Islamic punishment.
They did not factor in the inherent contradictions between non-Malay acceptance of a religious party like PAS and an economically vibrant and upwardly mobile society where any religion plays an increasingly small part.
With a general election in the offing, PAS leaders have realised, before it is too late, that while non-Malays don't seem too keen to be ruled under PAS and would prefer the party to drop its Islamic baggage, more and more rural Malays are turning away from PAS for what they see as a failure to defend Islam.
They also see the party going out of its way to accommodate DAP out of fear of losing the non-Malay votes.
That's the crux of a religious party if you alienate your core constituents you could end up with nothing.
That's why all PAS senior leaders conservative ulamas and Anwarinas alike are suddenly coming out in support of hudud and urging its speedy implementation.
It does not matter if they lose some non-Malay support as a result of the Karpal-hudud controversy, provided they keep their core constituents intact by once again embracing the mantle as defenders of Islam and hudud.
DAP also benefits from this new PAS insistence on hudud.
DAP's core constituents are also happy every time Karpal speaks up.
They feel reassured that here is a party man who is dead set against hudud.
Other DAP leaders, such as adviser Lim Kit Siang and his son and secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, the two most powerful men in the party, have remained silent even if egged on to comment about hudud because they want to give PAS some breathing space.
But they have put their reputation at stake and allowed MCA to criticise their silence.
They also want to benefit from the Muslim votes in the urban constituencies which had given them huge majorities in the 2008 elections.
Only Karpal speaks up against hudud and he would not be Karpal if he does not.
The long and short of it is that each of the Pakatan coalition parties DAP and PAS has decided to fight for and keep its different core constituents as the general election nears, leaving PKR, which has no core constituents of its own, high and dry.
Related Stories: Hudud no mere threat' Don't be a stumbling block, PAS man tells Karpal
Did you find this article insightful?