By Latafat Ali Siddiqui for Dawn
Salma Ataullahjan on Friday became the first Canadian woman of Pakistani origin to get into the Senate when Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed her to fill a vacancy from the province of Ontario.
“I am pleased to announce the appointment of Salma Ataullahjan to the Senate of Canada,” said Prime Minister Harper in a statement on Friday evening.
“A professional, artist, parent and strong activist for the South Asian community in the Greater Toronto Area, Ms Ataullahjan brings a remarkable dedication and energy to her new role as a senator for the province of Ontario,” he said.
The appointment comes into effect immediately. “I’m delighted to hear the good news of my appointment as a senator,” said Ms Ataullahjan, who immigrated to Canada from Pakistan 31 years ago, becoming a Canadian citizen in 1989.
She pledged to support the government in its efforts to make the Senate more democratic and accountable, including bringing in legislation to limit the Senate’s tenure and to allow provinces to elect senators.
Ms Ataullahjan, who belongs to the family of the late Khan Abdul Wali Khan, has settled in Toronto and is associated with the real estate sector for 21 years.
She has served several organizations, including as founder and chairperson of the Parent Council of David Lewis Public School, as member of the South Asian Regional Council and on the executive of the Pakistani Canadian Professionals and Academics.
She has also worked for the Toronto chapter of the Citizens Foundation, a charity that builds not-for-profit schools in poor districts of Pakistan. Ms Ataullahjan is an accomplished artist and paints in watercolours. She and husband Saleem have been married for 31 years and have two daughters.