PAKATAN Rakyat is reeling in confusion after the decision by PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang to deliver a letter to the Selangor palace allegedly naming three PAS exco-members as potential candidates for the Selangor Mentri Besar post.
By naming the exco members, Hadi excludes PKR president Datuk Dr Wan Azizah Ismail and the deputy president, Azmin Ali, as PAS choices for the post.
The letter, signed by Hadi, also repudiates the decisions taken by the PAS Central Committee on Aug 17 to back Dr Wan Azizah and Azmin.
The three whom Hadi named were believed to be Selangor exco members Iskandar Abdul Samad, Sallehen Mukhyi and Ahmad Yunus Hairi.
Since Azmin had withdrawn his name almost as soon as it was announced, it was only Dr Wan Azizah in the running as far as PKR and DAP were concerned.
Because the clerics were opposed to Dr Wan Azizah's candidacy, PAS had been dilly-dallying with its recommendations and saying that it was going to endorse Dr Wan Azizah and Azmin, but now Hadi has surprised everyone with his own plan.
By excluding Dr Wan Azizah and Azmin, he has thrown PKR into a frenzy of anger and disillusionment.
Sources said Hadi's decision has split the party between the clerics or ulamas who have ruled the party since the 1980s and the pro-Anwar Ibrahim (the adviser to PKR) progressives who are a new phenomenon in PAS and who came into their own after the 2008 general election.
"The clerics have decided to risk everything ... they want (to take) the party back from (what they see as) the negative influences of the progressives," said one conservative PAS leader who asked for anonymity.
"The progressives won big in the 2013 general election and have been dominating PAS dialogue since.
"A big clash is brewing between the two groups," he said, adding that he views the mentri besar crisis as the spark for the clash.
The backdrop could be the PAS general assembly later this month in Johor.
Progressive members in the PAS Central Committee who backed Dr Wan Azizah were reportedly flabbergasted at this latest twist.
"Are we working our way out of Pakatan? Is PAS burning all its bridges? Is this the beginning of the end for Pakatan?" asked an astounded central committee member who is said to be aligned to Anwar.
It also looks like Hadi submitted his letter to the palace without the knowledge of even PAS leaders such as deputy president Mohamed Sabu and central committee member Khalid Samad.
With this, Hadi has put into question PAS' sincerity in its alliance with PKR and DAP.
PKR held a late night meeting when news of the letter broke to try to comprehend what one PKR leader described as a stab in the back.
"We never believed Hadi would do this… to reject our candidate entirely," said a political bureau member who declined to be named.
"This is definitely the end of any meaningful cooperation with PAS in Pakatan."
The progressives in PAS were equally confounded by what came from their own party president.
"All the while we were saying we were not interested in the post but suddenly we have named three PAS members.
"How are we going to explain this to the Pakatan rank and file?" said a PAS leader aligned to Anwar.
According to the sources, Hadi was relying on the Shura Council, which is known to be dead against Dr Wan Azizah as mentri besar, to back him.
And that puts him on a collision course with some of his own top lieutenants.
With the party's general assembly coming up on Sept 18, the stage is set for a head-on clash between the two groups - the conservative clerics and the pro-Pakatan progressives.
- The views expressed are entirely the writer's own.