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Pilot against ‘any form of extremism,’ says Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim who knows him

March 19th, 2014
02:41 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

Zaharie Ahmad Shah, the pilot of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, is not an extremist, Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim told CNN's Christiane Amanpour Wednesday.

"He supports our multi-racial coalition. He supports democratic reform. He is against any form of extremism," Anwar said of Zaharie, whom he said he has met "on a number of occasions." "And we take a very strong position in clamoring for change through constitutional and democratic means."

Pilot was 'against any form of extremism'

With frustratingly few answers about the fate of Flight 370 nearly two weeks after it disappeared, some have starting probing the possible political inclinations of crew members.

Anwar, who has been the target of ongoing attacks from the ruling government, constitutes the main Malaysian opposition.

Some have tried to tie Zaharie to Anwar as a family relation.

Anwar's press secretary told CNN that Zaharie is the opposition leader's - wait for it - son's wife's mother's father's brother's son.

"What my daughter-in-law told me is that he is a family member, not too close, but she calls him 'uncle,' which is quite common here," Anwar said. "But I know him... basically as a party activist."

There have been reports in Malaysian media that just hours before the plane took off on March 8, Shah attended a hearing for Anwar, who was sentenced to five years in jail after a court overturned his 2012 acquittal on a sodomy charge.

"He was not in the court," Anwar said. "He may have been outside in the premises of the court, because the court has a limited capacity. But from what I gather, from many of our colleagues, nobody actually saw him in the premises of the court."

Could Zaharie have had a particularly strong reaction to the sentencing of the party leader to which he was a devotee?

Did pilot react to court ruling?

"I gathered later from many of his colleagues and from what is written about him that he was disturbed - many others were disturbed. I mean, we were shocked and appalled by the speed of the process of the court of appeal."

"But I think that's quite normal. I don't think it's something that would trigger a person of his expertise, caliber, to do any unwanted activity. I am absolutely certain of that."

Most theories about the fate of Flight 370 now point to the plane turning back over the Malaysian peninsula after its initial heading northwest towards its final destination, Beijing.

Malaysian officials should have been able to detect the plane if it flew back west, Anwar said.

Malaysia radar 'had the capability'

"When they procured that Radar Marconi system in that Northern corridor, I happened to be the finance minister," he told Amanpour. "They had the capability to detect any flight from the west - or from the east to the west coast, from the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean."

The Malaysian government has become the target of passionate anger from the families of the missing passengers, who have gotten few answers about the fate of their loved ones.

"I find it shocking that (the government officials) are not able, that they were not able, or they give some very scanty sort of information."

"The problem is credibility of the leadership. They are culpable because there is a general perception that they are not opening up, that there is an opaque system at work."

Malaysian officials have defended their handling of the crisis, stressing that the situation is unprecedented.

"This is not a normal investigation," Hishammuddin Hussein, the country's defense and transport minister, said last week.

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soundoff (44 Responses)
  1. Ganesh Rao

    at first Anwar Ibrahim claimed he did not know the pilot, but in a later interview with a local media he revealed that 'Captain Zaharie' is related to him and have met the pilot on several occasion..come on Anwar Ibrahim, If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear..

    March 19, 2014 at 3:46 pm | Reply
    • Anand

      Do you know your " son's wife's mother's father's brother's son." ?? Really ..

      March 19, 2014 at 8:17 pm | Reply
      • Ravi Kumar

        Possible for him to know since he belongs to a close knit family.

        March 19, 2014 at 9:43 pm |
      • Ursula

        Maybe not, but 3 words (instead of 6!) would have been enough: my son's mother-in-law's cousin....

        March 20, 2014 at 5:48 am |
      • naysayer9

        Problem is he denied it at first. The missus also said her husband didn't know him.
        Why is it so hard to get straight answers from this fellow? And now his wife too?

        March 20, 2014 at 8:32 am |
    • Grant

      I trust Pinocchio more than I do this guy.

      March 19, 2014 at 9:19 pm | Reply
    • Macro

      Well look back to the whole incident, which side is the one more likely to hide the truth, the answer definitely is BN government, the whole world says the same thing.

      March 19, 2014 at 10:51 pm | Reply
      • James Bigmoore

        put it simple Pilot attended Anwar's court trial, Anwar convicted at 6pm, plane hijacked by 12am, just a coincidence? your opposition leader BS all the way to the moon..

        March 20, 2014 at 3:07 am |
  2. David

    I will never, ever fly in an airplane piloted by Muslim pilots.

    March 19, 2014 at 5:56 pm | Reply
    • sk

      good luck making that investigation, every time you board a plane. that's the earliest you will probably be able to make that determination.

      March 19, 2014 at 6:30 pm | Reply
    • CC

      How, exactly, do you know someone is Muslim without being stereotypical, extremely ignorant or incorrect? Do you ask prior to getting on a plane if the pilot is Muslim, regardless of their race or creed or is it just the ones that look like they are from the Middle East? Most of the "terroristic" attacks that have occurred in America have been done by white, men, not Muslim, who are US citizens.

      March 19, 2014 at 6:30 pm | Reply
    • Aaron_of_Portsmouth

      So, what do you propose to do? Have every crew member of any flight you take fill out a survey of their religious background?
      While we're at it, lets get their racial, gender and ethnic profile.

      Your response betrays a sense of prejudice that doesn't help relieve the tension the world finds itself in.

      A better method might be to have the Airlines and some international review board check for psychological profile on a regular basis to ensure the pilots and other crew are not so deeply involved with political or religious movements that may wind them up too emotionally and thus cloud their sense of emotional equilibrium. (Just as they do with drug testing).

      Just a thought

      March 19, 2014 at 6:34 pm | Reply
      • Tom

        I would suggest, all commercial airlines should be taken over by the Air Force of that respective country and all commercial airlines should be operated by Air Force. This will bring more security because Air Force can handle public security with more discipline and strictness.

        March 19, 2014 at 6:40 pm |
      • djjimi

        Why not? They investigate us!

        March 19, 2014 at 7:23 pm |
    • Ismai

      So you have already concluded that the pilot was responsible for the missing plane and it has to do with islam?

      March 19, 2014 at 7:33 pm | Reply
      • doabitofhomework

        THAT kind of conclusion cannot be reached – yet. Indications are not evidence. But they can suggest areas to investigate.

        To take Islamic terrorism entirely out of consideration would be foolhardy in the extreme. But, with what we now know, there is no knowledge of the plane's fate, and who, if anyone, brought that fate about.

        It IS almost impossible NOT to conclude that the disappearance of this plane was a human-caused event – and therefore criminal. That closes off almost any likelihood of accident. But the rest is nothing but question marks. For US, anyway. It's entirely possible that some nation or nations has a lot more knowledge than is being given out, and such withholding of info does not HAVE to be nefarious. Although most likely it is. But the "nefarious" aspect can be political, such as trying to save "face," and does not HAVE to bear on the fate of this plane.

        All any of us can do is to wait for more information before reaching conclusions. Most people seem all too willing to leap to conclusions, however, which doesn't speak well for their analytical ability. And it DOES speak to their ignorance and biases, as well as all kinds of agendas.

        All we have are some VERY strong indications, not all of which are even being investigated. Indications are NOT proof, much as most people want to think they are. But investigations that pointedly AVOID investigating certain prime possibilities is no investigation at ALL. There has to be a reason to exclude valid possibilities, and not one of those possible reasons is benign or constructive. This investigation has demonstrated that there is strong bias involved, and I have to wonder WHY. A biased investigation will – inevitably – lead to an erroneous conclusion.

        March 19, 2014 at 8:23 pm |
  3. John

    The argument that pilot committed suicide is weak. If the pilot's intention was to commit suicide, he would dump the airplane within 30 minutes. He will not keep flying for hours.

    March 19, 2014 at 6:01 pm | Reply
    • dave

      totally wild speculation, but he could have intended to turn the plane around and crash it into a government building....but could have had second thoughts after turning it around, its not like he could say "my bad" turn the plane around again and keep going to the intended destination (especially after taking the plane to 45,000 ft and a depressurized cabin).

      March 19, 2014 at 6:15 pm | Reply
      • Kevin

        I would somewhat agree to John. Typically, the hijackers don't want to prolong the hijacking, because the passengers become impatient and there is a chance some passenger may rescue and take the hijacker down. Like it happened to the United Airlines Flight 93 on September 11, 2001, when the hijackers dumped the plane because of rescue attempt by passengers.

        March 19, 2014 at 6:31 pm |
    • JamesRav

      Maybe his intention was to embarrass the Malaysian government by creating an enduring shame (if it ends up being totally unsolved). Right now China hates them, and other countries are using words like 'inept' to describe the initial response. No question Malaysia is feeling the scorn of the world, and the media will keep this alive for months and months, with an anniversary every year for decades to come. I hope I'm wrong, sad to think he killed 239 other people to make a point.

      March 19, 2014 at 6:19 pm | Reply
  4. JD

    I would never fly again with Malaisia airline to Asia and they are cruel as you never known.

    March 19, 2014 at 6:07 pm | Reply
  5. Susan

    Aliens have hijacked Flight 370. Aliens took control of the airplane and turned its communication system off. When the Air Traffic Control heard the last voice of the pilot saying "good night", was actually not the pilot, it was an alien imitating the pilot. Had the plane been hijacked by some terrorist organization, they would have, by now made their demands, or they would have come forward with some offer to negotiate the exchange of the hostages.

    March 19, 2014 at 6:11 pm | Reply
    • Aaron_of_Portsmouth

      I knew that the "Alien angle" would come up sooner or later. Of all the millions of flights, they chose this one?

      March 19, 2014 at 6:43 pm | Reply
    • Abductee

      As a former alien abductee, I can atest that no alien was involved in this case. If they were to abduct the plane, they'd just beamed the plane to the mothership as it was, they don't need to turn off transponder or any other detection beacons, the mothership is shielded against any detection signals.

      March 19, 2014 at 7:25 pm | Reply
      • doabitofhomework


        March 19, 2014 at 8:03 pm |
  6. Alan

    The pilot might have tried to land the plane on water, like the on Hudson river on January 15, 2009, but he may not have succeeded and the plane sunk to the bottom of the ocean thousands of feet deep, which can never be recovered.

    March 19, 2014 at 6:23 pm | Reply
    • Aaron_of_Portsmouth

      That's a scenario which shouldn't be comtemplated out loud, especially in light of the anguish felt by the relatives.

      March 19, 2014 at 6:45 pm | Reply
  7. Edmund

    I think the co-pilot is the one needing the most looking into. His grandmother was quoted as saying he was very pious. The definition of that word pretty much means one who is so is entirely capable of irrational action. Wasn't the co-pilots voice the last one heard? Seems to me he is the most likely to have murdered the lead pilot, turned the plane around and possibly tried to make some jungle airport that has been out of commission.

    March 19, 2014 at 7:00 pm | Reply
  8. djjimi

    I think this speaks volumes to the theory that the government wanted to get rid of this pilot and they didn't care about collateral damage.

    March 19, 2014 at 7:24 pm | Reply
  9. johnbentleyheng

    Reblogged this on John ℬ. Heng.

    March 19, 2014 at 8:13 pm | Reply
  10. popseal

    "Abrogation" is where Muslims tell the world they are peaceful according to Mohammed's Mecca era teachings and practice the jihad crap trap from his Medina teachings. Like Islam itself, the lie is very effective against the naïve and unstudied and DHIMMI cowards.

    March 19, 2014 at 9:28 pm | Reply
  11. Ravi Kumar

    Anwar denied knowing the pilot until it was revealed that the pilot was a distance relative on his son's in-laws side. Now suddenly he can vouch for the pilot. This goes to show how credible Anwar is.

    March 19, 2014 at 9:41 pm | Reply
  12. Mark

    Let us all take a break and don't jump into conclusions. The plane is still missing, and all we can is hope and pray that they find it. Anyone can say anything since they are not the ones who are running the management of this incident. You have to be there to know it and feel the pressure. To be honest, there is only as 50 people who know what exactly is going on and 2 billion people who have become an aviation, psychology, air traffic experts overnight since this incident.

    Till they find the black box and analyze it , we will never know.....

    March 20, 2014 at 12:43 am | Reply
  13. Mark

    I like pepperoni pizza.

    March 20, 2014 at 11:52 am | Reply
  14. Karl

    We need robot pilots now. Robots don't fail, dont committed suicide. We can't trust people anymore.

    March 20, 2014 at 12:53 pm | Reply
  15. Shakim

    We need to find that craft is there any possibility to find it?

    March 22, 2014 at 8:09 am | Reply
  16. Shakim

    Why pepo relate every incident happens to Muslims clear up minds en wake up its like some a dreaming i wonder.

    March 22, 2014 at 8:19 am | Reply
  17. Ratna

    if you ask me i will say MAS must know how where time to time the plane duty every second on thier eye ,no just seat and singing around .MAS must take responsibility on this .no point if people saying KLIA IS BIGGIEST AIRPORT WITH GOOD SYSTEM ,IF COMPARE TO SMALL AIRPORT I THINK MUCH SAFER .

    March 25, 2014 at 3:02 am | Reply
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