Salma Ataullahjan was born in Mardan, Pakistan, in the province of Kyber Pukhtunkhwa near the Afghan border (previously known as North-West Frontier Province.) Daughter of Saranjam Khan, a former Pakistani Senator and Secretary-General, and Granddaughter of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (“Badshah Khan”), leader of a non-violent Muslim movement for independence from British rule, Salma attributes her political aspirations to the environment in which she grew up.
Salma came to Canada in 1980 as a young bride. Destined to follow in her family's inspirational footsteps, she was appointed to the Canadian Senate in 2010, after a prominent career in real estate, community service and politics. As the first Pakistani-Canadian Pushtun Senator, 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.”