World

Was The Malaysia Pilot Really A 'Political Fanatic'?

The captain of the missing Malaysia Airlines plane, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, is under scrutiny for his alleged support of a Malaysian opposition leader.

Was The Malaysia Pilot Really A 'Political Fanatic'?
YouTube / Zaharie Shah

​Malaysian officials say they now believe the missing airliner was likely diverted off course deliberately by someone who knew how to turn off the plane's communications and tracking systems. 

So, naturally the focus has turned to the captain, Zaharie Ahmad Shah. (Via YouTube / Zaharie Shah)

The Daily Mail is reporting the missing pilot attended the trial of jailed Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim the same day MH370 took off from Kuala Lumpur. (Via YouTube / mediarakyat

Anwar is a controversial figure in Malaysia. He supported nonviolent protests against the government, and then ran a failed, but close campaign to unseat it. (Via YouTube / Leow ​Beng Hock)     

Anwar was recently sentenced to five years in prison on sodomy charges his supporters say were politically motivated. (Via The New York Times)

​Officials from Anwar's pro-democracy party have confirmed to the Financial Times that Zaharie was a member but have dismissed the idea that his political affiliation could have had anything to do with the plane's disappearance. 

But the Daily Mail is labeling Zaharie a "fanatical" and "obsessive" supporter of Anwar's — and other news outlets are now suggesting he may have hijacked the plane as some sort of anti-government protest. (Via International Business Times, The New York Post, Daily Mirror)

With so little information to go on and officials ruling nothing out at this point, the speculation over the pilot's politics perhaps isn't surprising. But is it a rush to judgment? 

Michael Daly at The Daily Beast seems to think so. He puts it this way: "So far, nothing beyond the apparent circumstances of the plane's disappearance suggests that Zaharie was responsible."

Slate's William Dobson also explains support for Anwar hardly makes someone a fanatic, considering Anwar is "trying to defeat Malaysia's authoritarian regime through elections—not terrorism, let alone revolution."

Aside from his support for Anwar's party, we know Zaharie is a married father of three who'd flown more than 18,000 hours with Malaysia Airlines. (Via CNN

Friends have described his passion for aviation and how he'd practice scenarios on his flight simulator at home. Malaysian officials are reportedly analyzing the simulator after searching both Zaharie's home and his co-pilot's over the weekend.