Although both Pakatan Rakyat and Umno have rejected the implementation of hudud, the idea could resurface once the 13th general election is over.
But the outright rejection by both Umno and the Pakatan coalition parties showed that Malaysia is not ready for hudud.
The PAS leaders’ comments on hudud or syariah laws and the Islamic state agenda had again revived the debate in Pakatan, with DAP leaders, particularly its chairman Karpal Singh, opposing the idea.
The contentious issue remains a deadly one for the future of Pakatan.
Some PAS leaders are said to be in favour of forging a pact with the ruling Barisan Nasional if Umno would support an Islamic state should PKR and DAP disapprove of it.
While these PAS members feel it is necessary to use the Pakatan platform to advance their goal of an Islamic state, the Umno response to the hudud issue has dampened any talks of cooperation on the matter.
PAS president Hadi Awang, who came off badly after the secret Umno-PAS talks were blown wide open, seemed to be making his final push in favour of hudud.
Or is it his final bid to revive the Umno-PAS talks? Whatever it was, the path to implementing hudud in Malaysia has always been littered with political pitfalls.
During the talks with Umno on the formation of a so-called “Islamic” government with Umno and PAS as the main parties in a new coalition within the BN, the issues on the table were the repeal of the ISA, the freeing of the press and the implementation of hudud.
Now that the press has been freed (the registration part, that is) and the ISA repealed and replaced with new laws, there was only the hudud left for Umno to accommodate PAS.
Hudud haunts Pakatan pact
Lately, Hadi said hudud will be implemented if Pakatan comes to power. He added it will only be for Muslims, while non-Muslims will be given an option of whether they want to be subjected to the law.
The PAS president pointed out that the hudud issue was discussed in the 1970s with Umno when PAS was a coalition partner in BN.
Both Pakatan and Umno rejected the idea but it is suspected that they will talk it over again once the 13th general election is over.
And this is where the real danger lies for a future Pakatan regime.
PAS is still partially hoping to implement hudud despite the fact that it will not get a majority in the forthcoming Parliament.
Yet if that was true, why would Hadi throw the hudud bait into the already much-heated pre-electoral campaign?
Perhaps are PAS members, who are in favour of implementing hudud at all cost, also hoping they will be able to get the support of other Muslim Members of Parliament in the post-election sitting of Parliament?
Will this then lead to fresh “muzakarah” that will bring Umno and PAS together as many Umno members are claiming should have happened by now?
Hudud bane to Pakatan
Hadi’s move is a potential threat to the stability of Pakatan. A worst-case scenario is that PAS will threaten to leave Pakatan and join BN on the hudud issue after a Pakatan victory in the national polls.
At best, Pakatan will have to accept that hudud will be implemented in PAS-ruled states and that would be Kelantan, Kedah and Terengganu as the party is expected to gain stronger support in these states.
However, the eventual outcome may see Pakatan split since the DAP, adamant that hudud is an irrelevant issue, may then threaten to quit the loose coalition, leaving PKR and PAS to sort it out at Putrajaya.
Does this mean that Pakatan will then be joined by a weakened and beaten Umno in a wider coalition that will be supported by the Muslim majority?
Will this then mean the minorities in the country will be pushed into the opposition, unwillingly and unceremoniously?
The hudud, despised by the DAP, could be catastrophic for the majority-Chinese party in the end whereas the much-sought “Islamic” alliance could be in the making if the DAP were to make the wrong move on the thorny subject.
Hence, what is the solution to the problem?
The reminder to Pakatan that hudud will have to be implemented if Pakatan comes to power after the national polls, is a sign that Hadi is playing his very last wild card.
But Hadi, a former menteri besar of Terengganu, has indicated he will not struggle for the same job this coming polls but will focus on his role as a MP if he is elected again.
His stand on the hudud issue in the midst of a storm created by the Bersih violence is a reminder to Umno about his intention to implement hudud.
Nevertheless, Umno, probably lacking in tact and confused with the recent blues it suffered on the national scene, has issued a veiled statement on its Umno-online.com website.
It indicated that the hudud issue raised by Hadi is a lost cause since “PAS, being a small party without a majority in Parliament, would never be able to carry out such a ‘dream’ cause”.
This may not be good for Hadi because if Umno is not receptive to the cause, the pro-Umno PAS men may be doomed and the hudud issue buried.
And this is exactly what had happened after a Pakatan meeting on the issue, where the coalition declared that hudud was not its priority.
Once again, it was a defeat for Hadi. But for how long?
Hadi’s reminder to Umno
Hadi’s need to sound out Umno on hudud is reminiscent of the days when some PAS members were busy negotiating deals with Umno after the 2008 polls.
PAS had enough MPs to cross over and give Umno the two-thirds majority that it lost in the 2008 polls.
Hadi’s statement on hudud is to remind Umno that there are PAS members who would probably join BN if Umno were to at least give a hint it would favour hudud.
Will Umno conclude that to save BN this time around, perhaps hudud could be the ultimate wild card and should be taken seriously?
In the event Umno were to take this bait thrown by Hadi, it will mean that attempts are being made to get a larger number of Malay-Muslims to swing towards Umno-PAS in the polls.
And this means that while Umno is in power and PAS in opposition, they should get more Malay support in the next general election.
And why is that important for both parties?
It will mean a better chance for Umno-BN to get more Malay votes and for PAS to elect more parliamentary candidates.
It is certain that the Umno-BN coalition’s popularity has been slipping even among Malay-Muslim voters and this is probably due to the rise of Pakatan as well as the botched policies of the BN.
Nevertheless, if there is a simple hint by Umno that it will implement hudud, pro-Umno PAS members may want to restart a dialogue with Umno.
Hadi’s final attempt
The dialogue has not been killed off for certain but it is not in the limelight anymore.
One way for Hadi to regain control over the PAS machinery is to get a better, fairer deal from its partners in Pakatan or from Umno on hudud in the future.
Hadi’s indication that he will not go for the Terengganu menteri besar’s post but will focus on his job as MP came about after the collapse of the “official” talks between PAS and Umno.
These talks were held behind the back of a majority of PAS leaders, including that of Kelantan Menteri Besar Nik Aziz Nik Mat. Once the meeting was made public, the pro-Umno proponents in PAS faced a hard time with the party’s leadership and grassroots members.
In the meantime, the numerous scandals that have hit Pakatan, particularly PKR, have dampened the enthusiasm of many PAS members.
Hadi is well aware of all these problems and he is being pushed by many supporters to give a final chance to the PAS-Umno talks.
Thus he threw the hudud issue once again in the middle of the political battles and right at the doorstep of the 13th general election.
This is very significant indeed.
KL-based Amir Ali works for an Indonesian NGO called the Warisan Melayu Riau, which is based in Bengkalis, Riau.