Saturday August 18, 2012
Nasharudin the PAS enigma
By JOCELINE TAN
The PAS leadership is under pressure to act against its former No 2 Nasharudin Mat Isa who accompanied the Prime Minister to an exclusive meeting with top Saudi ulama in Mecca.
IT is guaranteed that PAS politician Nasharudin Mat Isa will be a top conversation topic among PAS circles this Hari Raya.
There has been intense speculation about him ever since that photograph of him seated Arab-style next to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak with two of Mecca’s most prominent religious personalities was published in the local media.
It was one of those pictures that told a thousand words – Nasharudin seated somewhat deferentially to Najib’s right as the Prime Minister chatted with the two Saudi ulama amid plush velvet cushions and carpets.
If Nasharudin was an Umno politician, he would be seen as a man with a very bright future. But since he is from PAS, it probably means he is going to be in hot water with his party.
The picture sent shockwaves through PAS circles and there have been all sorts of theories about how the Bachok MP and former PAS No 2 got into such a cosy situation with the country’s No 1.
Nasharudin, who is also the Malaysian co-chairman of the pro-Palestine Al-Quds Foundation, was said to be part of the delegation that was in Mecca in connection with the Extraordinary Summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) that eventually suspended Syria’s membership in the group.
But how he ended up in that rather exclusive session was apparently quite impromptu.
The session between Najib and the Saudi ulama took place on the sidelines of the OIC meeting.
It was arranged by Nasharudin who is part of the international Islamic network thanks to his years in PAS and his proficiency in Arabic.
What happened was that the ever-punctual Najib had arrived at the appointed time for the meeting.
It took place in the penthouse suite located within Mecca’s most prestigious address – the Makka Royal Hotel Clock Tower which is a glittering complex of hotels and shops overlooking the revered Kaabah.
Religious Affairs Minister Datuk Jamil Khir Baharom, who was supposed to join the meeting as the translator, was still on the way and that was how Nasharudin, who speaks fluent Arabic, was roped in as the translator.
“We were just as surprised, it was purely coincidental. Call it divine intervention if you like,” said one Malaysian official.
The chorus of calls from PAS to discipline and even to sack Nasharudin is growing louder.
He has been accused of being an agent of Umno and the party has been left red-faced and at a loss to explain his actions.
When former deputy minister Datuk Lajim Ukin called on Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat in Kelantan before jumping from the Umno ship, Pakatan Rakyat leaders and supporters had clapped and cheered him on. But no one is cheering now that the same thing is happening in PAS. Nobody likes the taste of their own medicine.
Nasharudin, better known as Ustaz Nasha among reporters, has been on a collision course with his party’s leadership since losing his deputy president’s post to Mohamad Sabu two years ago.
He was recently removed as head of the international bureau and dropped as a member of the party’s central committee because he had not attended a single meeting since his appointment and had ignored inquiries about his absenteeism.
PAS secretary-general Datuk Mustafa Ali said that Nasharudin could still appeal against the decision and that he remained a member of the powerful Syurah Council which comprises the party’s top ulama.
But sources said that Nasharudin actually enjoys support from a number of the party’s top ulama who, like him, are not comfortable with PAS’ direction since 2008.
This conservative group believes Nasharudin is not against the party; they say he is only against the liberals or Erdogans who have caused PAS to veer from its Islamic agenda.
Nasharudin thinks that PAS is too subservient to DAP and he was at Datuk Dr Hasan Ali’s side when the party sacked him for pushing the Islamic agenda in Selangor.
He has also been vocal against the LGBT or the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transsexual movement, he advocates the unity of the ummah and has even offered his house as the venue for a muzakarah between PAS and Umno.
Two months ago, the Malay papers went to town with pictures of Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin attending the wedding of Nasharudin’s eldest daughter.
Other Umno guests included Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz and Khairy Jamaluddin.
It is quite normal to see both sides of the divide at a wedding but PAS people saw it as yet another instance of Nasharudin getting too friendly with Umno leaders.
To rub salt into injury, he told TV3 during his Mecca stay that PAS grassroots are worried about the party’s collaboration with DAP given its anti-hudud thinking and urged the PAS leadership to take a stand before the general election.
Nasharudin has become a rogue politician in his party.
He told reporters waiting at the KLIA when he flew in from Saudi Arabia on Thursday that he was not resigning from PAS. Many think he is challenging PAS to sack him.
Nasharudin has never been an easy person to read.
He is one of the more gregarious leaders in PAS, he seems eternally chirpy and is always smiling.
The only occasion when he looked crushed was when he lost his deputy president’s post.
He left the venue early and did not bother to attend the final day of the party’s muktamar.
Some think he is preparing to burn his bridges with PAS. Others say the bridge has burnt down.