Salma Ataullahjan came to Canada in 1980 as a young bride. Destined to follow in her family's inspirational footsteps, she was named to the upper house by Governor General Michaëlle Jean, on the advice of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, on July 9, 2010, and sits with the Conservative caucus after a prominent career in real estate, community service and politics.
She had been the Conservative Party's unsuccessful candidate in Mississauga—Brampton South during the 2008 federal election losing to Liberal MP Navdeep Bains.
With this appointment, Ataullahjan became the first Canadian senator of Pakistani Pushtun descent, she stands for the ethnic diversity of all Canadians and is, according to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, “bringing a Muslim voice into Canadian political life.”
In the Senate, Senator Ataullahjan is a member of the Human Rights Committee, Aboriginal Peoples Committee, and the Library of Parliament Joint Committee. She sits on the steering commmitee of Human Rights, and has been recognized for sponsoring a study on the cyberbullying of children.
She is also President of the Canadian Group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), having previously served as a Co-Rapporteur for the IPU Standing Committee of Democracy and Human Rights. Her ongoing focus has been on women's issues - she recently played a critical role in a landmark resolution on maternal and child health that was adopted by the 126th Assembly of the IPU.
Ataullahjan is an advocate for the South Asian community. She has served on the executive board of the Canadian branch of The Citizens Foundation, an international organization that since 1995 has built 730 schools for Pakistan’s poorest children and is president of the Canadian Pashtun Cultural Association focusing on issues concerning the Pashtun communities across Canada.
She founded the parent’s council at David Lewis Public School in Toronto and has also served on the executive of the Pakistani Canadian Professionals and Academics and as president and vice-president of the Canadian Pushtun Cultural Association. She is also on the executive of the South Asian Regional Council.
Salma is known throughout the community of Toronto for her commitment and dedication to others. She has lived in the Greater Toronto Area for more than 30 years, making a lasting impression by providing a helping hand wherever and whenever she is needed.
A natural consensus builder, Salma has been an active participant in several organizations. She is executive member of the Pakistani Canadian Academic Executive, involved in fundraising, most notably for the Credit Valley Hospital in Mississauga, Member of the South Asian Regional Council of Canada, promoting harmony between South Asian communities, founding member of the David Lewis Public School Advisory Council and Scarborough elementary school that has organized fundraisers and events to benefit the community.
Salma is actively involved in the Pakistani-Canadian community and is a compassionate advocate for her birth country of Pakistan. Prior to being appointed to the Senate, she had visited campsites of internally displaced persons (IDP) in the Swat Valley. She also visited the regions of Nowshera and Charsadda after they were ravaged by the flooding of 2010. Salma was presented with Pakistan's "Woman's Icon" award in 2012, a national merit previously bestowed on her schoolmate Benazir Bhutto.
Salma Ataullahjan was born on April 29, 1952 in Mardan. She is the daughter of Saranjam Khan, a former senator and until recently secretary-general of Pakistan Muslim League (N) and granddaughter of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan. She has a diploma in computer operations and is also an artist.
As a schoolgirl, she was friends with Benazir Bhutto. Salma attributes her political aspirations to the environment in which she grew up. Currently, Salma resides in Scarborough with her husband, Saleem, and her two daughters, Anushka and Shaanzeh. In her free time, she loves to paint.