50 years in the life of Anwar Ibrahim

KUALA LUMPUR: Born in Kampung Cherok Tok Kun, Bukit Mertajam, Penang, Anwar Ibrahim has for two decades dominated Malaysia’s political scene. His eventful life began way back in the 1960s, as a firebrand student leader.

Here are some key moments of his life.

1968–1971: As a student of Universiti Malaya, he was active in the radical student movements of the era.

1971: Anwar founded the Malaysian Islamic Youth Movement (Abim), which would become an influential force in the country’s socio-political scene.

1974: Anwar was arrested for the first time under the Internal Security Act (ISA) after leading thousands of students to protest poverty in Baling, Kedah. It was at this point that Anwar, now close to PAS leaders, grew in influence.

1982: Anwar was courted by Dr Mahathir Mohamad to join Umno, months after he replaced Hussein Onn as prime minister, in a move seen as an attempt to neutralise the growing support for PAS. Anwar stood as the Permatang Pauh candidate and won.

1983: Appointed minister of culture, youth and sports.

1984: Appointed minister of agriculture.

1986: Appointed minister of education. Retained Permatang Pauh against PAS’ Mohamad Sabu.

1991: Appointed minister of finance.

1993: Appointed deputy prime minister, after winning the Umno deputy president post against Ghafar Baba in a campaign that led to accusations of money politics.

1997: The Asian economic crisis swept across Malaysia, and Mahathir brought back Daim Zainuddin to act as the government’s adviser, in a move seen as undermining Anwar’s team.

1998: Anwar’s relationship with Mahathir started to deteriorate amid allegations of cronyism and nepotism linked to Mahathir, in the wake of Umno’s general assembly.

A book claiming Anwar was a homosexual, titled “50 reasons why Anwar cannot be PM” was circulated among Umno delegates. The book was banned and police said the claims were false.

On Sept 2, Anwar was sacked from his Cabinet posts on moral grounds. A defiant Anwar said the allegations against him were politically motivated and part of a conspiracy to kill his political career.

He later began a nationwide roadshow attended by large crowds to explain his stand, urging Mahathir to resign.

Anwar was arrested under the ISA again, after masked policemen stormed his house in Bukit Damansara in the middle of a press conference.

The days ahead saw large-scale protests in Kuala Lumpur, with opposition parties such as PAS and DAP, and a host of civil society groups united by the “Reformasi” battle cry.

Anwar appeared in court with a black eye, which turned out to be caused by an assault in custody by then-police chief, Abdul Rahim Noor.

Anwar was charged with corruption for allegedly interfering with police investigations into allegations of sexual misconduct made against him.

1999: Anwar sentenced to six years’ jail for abuse of power. He was also convicted of sodomising his driver Azizan Abu Bakar, and sentenced to nine years in jail, in trials that drew worldwide condemnation.

Parti Keadilan Nasional was formed, with Anwar’s wife Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail as president. The party later merged with Parti Rakyat Malaysia to form what is now known as Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR).

Two months later, he was convicted of sodomy and sentenced to nine years in jail after serving the six years for corruption. His trial and conviction were widely criticised by the international community.

2004: Anwar’s conviction for sodomy was overturned. He was released from jail and spent the next two years consolidating his party after major losses in the 2004 elections. He also held academic posts in the UK and US.

2008: Anwar led the opposition campaign during the 2008 general election, bringing together PKR, PAS and DAP. The alliance won four states, and for the first time denied Barisan Nasional (BN) its two-thirds majority.

A much-talked of defection of BN MPs to Pakatan Rakyat did not materialise, and Anwar’s plan to form the federal government failed.

Fresh allegations surfaced after a staff member at PKR’s office, Saiful Bukhari Azlan, lodged a police report accusing Anwar of sodomising him.

Anwar returned to Parliament after winning the Permatang Pauh constituency, replacing his wife who stepped down from the seat. He was also appointed as the opposition leader.

2012: The High Court acquitted Anwar of the sodomy charges, but this was challenged by the prosecution.

2013: Anwar led Pakatan Rakyat in the general election, again denying BN, this time under Najib Razak, its two-third majority.

2014: A strategy by PKR to make Anwar the menteri besar of Selangor failed after Anwar’s acquittal was overturned by the court. A subsequent plan to make his wife the Selangor MB also failed despite her winning the Kajang by-election. Instead, the Selangor Sultan appointed Mohamed Azmin Ali.

Cracks began to appear in Pakatan Rakyat, as PAS and DAP differences over the implementation of Islamic laws were played out again.

2015: The Federal Court reaffirmed Anwar’s conviction, and sentenced him to five years’ jail.

Mahathir began criticising Najib over the 1MDB scandal.

2016: Mahathir met Anwar for the first time in 18 years, agreeing to work together to topple Najib.

Mahathir and several former key Umno leaders, including ex-deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin, formed PPBM.

2017: Mahathir was named as chairman of four-party alliance Pakatan Harapan (PH). He was later named the coalition’s prime ministerial candidate, with a plan to transfer power to Anwar.

2018: PH wins GE14.

Anwar is released from prison and pardoned, clearing the path for him to join active politics and eventually the new government.