Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) president Abdul Hadi Awang said yesterday that his party is ready to work with the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN), but insisted that PAS will remain an opposition party.
Its willingness to meet its political opponents is not a move towards forming a unity government, Datuk Seri Hadi added.
He reminded reporters that the idea of PAS working with BN was not a new scenario, as his party had previously joined a mixed government in the 1970s with BN.
"This is not a start but a new approach that we are taking. We are willing to meet the ministers concerned and the Prime Minister, towards resolving issues of the people," he was quoted as saying by The Star daily.
His comments, which indicate an increasingly BN-friendly stance after the break-up of the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) alliance, come after PAS met pro-BN Malay rights group Perkasa earlier this month.
However, Mr Hadi yesterday also said his party was open to working with any other party, including its former PR partners, the Democratic Action Party (DAP) and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), as long as it was for the good of the people.
This would contradict the party's earlier decision to sever ties with the DAP over longstanding disagreements about the Islamic party's push to implement hudud, or Islamic criminal law, which the DAP is vehemently opposed to.
At the same press conference, Mr Hadi dashed any hopes that PAS would consider joining the newly formed opposition coalition, Pakatan Harapan (PH), which he likened to an "express bus that will not get to its destination".
"We have no hope with a Harapan that does not get to the destination we want. We won't get on an express bus that does not get to its destination," he said.
"PAS has always been on its own. In fact, others have depended on us. When PAS didn't join a protest, not enough people showed up. That shows our strength," The Malaysian Insider quoted him as saying.
Mr Hadi said this even while the Islamic party has been engaging in cooperative talks with PKR and is also involved in an informal cooperation with PKR and the DAP in the current Selangor state government. PAS and PKR hold 13 seats each and the DAP, 15.
The Islamic party's dalliance with parties from both sides of the political divide is sending mixed messages about where its interests lie. This also makes it difficult to gauge whether PAS will head into the next general election with a political partner or opt to go solo. The next elections must be called by mid-2018.
Sources say that without PAS, the PH would lack a cohesive and united front, which may result in three- cornered fights that will split votes for the opposition.
Mr Hadi's comments prompted PH lawmakers to tell PAS to state clearly its political stand.
"You can't campaign as an opposition party and then decide to be friendly to the establishment after winning votes. That would be dishonest," PH partner Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) communications director Khalid Samad was quoted as saying.