Anwar debunks link to Captain Zaharie but says pilot attended PKR meets

Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah

(MM) – Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has admitted to have seen Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah at PKR meetings in the past but labelled it “desperate” of his political foes to focus the MH370 probe on the pilot’s political affiliation.

The Opposition Leader told CNN news that the reason behind the shift of focus was likely the ruling party Barisan Nasional’s (BN) attempt at deflecting attention away from their own shortcomings in handling a crisis of such magnitude.

“They failed on every count. Here is also the first time you have a leader of a country coming for a press conference not willing to answer questions,” Anwar sniped, when asked by CNN correspondent Kyung Lah to comment on the latest narrative in the saga of the missing plane.

On Saturday, Anwar’s arch nemesis Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak read out a media statement on developments in the MH370 case during a scheduled press conference but did not field any questions from the press.

“So I think because of that, they are now desperate to cast aspersions against me as a leader of the opposition,” Anwar continued.

In a South China Morning Post report this morning, however, the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) de facto chief was quoted as saying he remembers seeing Zaharie at PKR’s political meetings in the past, even if he did not directly know the man.

“I don’t recollect the name, but when the photographs were shown I remembered I had seen him at party meetings,” he reportedly told SCMP when met outside PKR’s headquarters in Petaling Jaya.

“He doesn’t hold positions in the party, but is an active member in the sense that he has been seen with the party’s parliamentary leaders, taking photographs with them,” Anwar was quoted saying.

The report also cited Anwar as confirming he had no personal contact with Zaharie even though the Malaysia Airlines pilot follows his account on Twitter.

Investigators of missing MAS flight MH370 refocused their probe on Saturday to the backgrounds of all the 239 people on board the Boeing 777 aircraft that mysteriously disappeared from radar at 1.30am Sunday morning.

Following revelations that signalled the aircraft had not only veered off-course for hundreds of miles but was “deliberately” done so, suspicions are zeroing in now on the possibility of hijacking and terrorism, or even “pilot suicide”.

Over the past few days, the backgrounds and characters of Zaharie and his co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid have received intense scrutiny in the media, as more theories emerge not just on how MH370 had gone missing, but why.

The police have searched both Zaharie’s and Fariq’s houses in Shah Alam, taking a flight simulator the former hand-built to mimic that of the Boeing 777-200ER that is now the subject of an international hunt by 26 countries.

Yesterday, acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein confirmed that “pilot suicide” is being studied as a possible angle, 10 days after a worldwide hunt failed to find the Boeing 777-200 jumbo jet carrying 239 people on board.

“Yes, we’re looking at it,” Hishammuddin told reporters at the daily press conference.

However, the minister declined to elaborate if either Zaharie or Fariq had personal problems.

The authorities’ refusal to offer concrete information has not stopped media scrutiny on the duo’s backgrounds, however.

Zaharie’s backing of Anwar has emerged to the fore, and his Facebook behaviour has been thoroughly studied.

According to news reports, the MAS pilot has not only “liked” the pages of many opposition leaders, he has also been an avid supporter of PR’s struggles and a frequent participant at their pro-democracy rallies.

“He even wore a ‘Democracy is Dead’ T-shirt, denouncing the ruling party,” CNN said in one report.

Reports have also noted that it was just a few hours before MH370 that Anwar, who had been previously acquitted of sodomy charges, was sentenced to a five-year jail term for the offence after an appellate court overturned the lower court’s ruling.

“But local press are now asking ― Did Zaharie purposely down the plane to make a political statement?” the CNN report said.

MH370 has been missing for a near 11 days now. The aircraft’s mysterious disappearance has sparked a multi-nation hunt across land and sea masses thousands of miles where the plane was last seen on civilian radar.