PETALING JAYA: Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah is not capable of violence, said a family friend of the missing pilot.
Pakistan national Nadiya Malik (not her real name), who first met Zaharie when she was a child, said she had anticipated the Western media would use his religion and heritage against him.
“He was a close family friend. My late father and Zaharie used to spend hours chatting about flying and planes,” said the communications executive in an email.
“I realised it was him on MH370 when my mother asked me if I remembered the uncle whom my dad cooked kofta (meatballs) and nihari (a spicy stew) for. He was really jolly and funny.”
Nadiya, whose parents knew Zaharie before he became a pilot, said the MH370 pilot had Pakistani ancestry.
“He was always close to my dad. My parents stayed with his family when he was living in Singapore.
“He’s been to our home here in Pakistan here too, nearly 20 years ago.
“Even we figured they might use his heritage against him on day one,” she said, adding that it was a blow as he was not able to defend himself.
Peter Chong said he had never seen his friend Zaharie lose his temper.
“I have known him for two years and never seen him angry once. He is pleasant, witty, and loves children. In fact, we were supposed to organise a charity event for children together,” he said.
Chong, who met Zaharie through community work in Subang, described Zaharie as one of the most open-hearted and kindest people.
“There is a treat he knows I love – ketupat daun palas (a triangular glutinous rice dumpling wrapped in fan palm leaves).
“Last Hari Raya, I couldn’t go to his house. A week or so later, there was a community Raya programme (dinner) and the night before he WhatsApped me a photo of him wrapping ketupat, saying ‘150 in four hours – marathon!’
I made nothing of it, but the next day he came to the dinner and brought the ketupat for me and other diners.
“It’s incomprehensible that anyone could think a person like him would be able to contemplate violence,” Chong said.