CANADIAN SENATOR MUGGED WHILE VISITING PAKISTAN
Two arrests after street thieves grab cash, ID
A Canadian senator was mugged while visiting Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, losing a large amount of money, a string of black pearls, credit cards and her Senate identity card to experienced street thieves.
Salma Ataullahjan, born in Pakistan into a wellknown political family, was appointed to the Senate in 2010 by Stephen Harper.
She was robbed Tuesday night. Two men were arrested Thursday — both admitted to the theft during preliminary interrogations — and some of the senator’s items have been recovered, Islamabad police said. The accused had a court appearance Friday.
Ataullahjan’s Senate identification was “of course” among the items recovered, a police official told the National Post, although local press accounts say few of her belongings have been found.
Ataullahjan reported the robbery in person at a police station shortly after the incident, the officer said.
“At approximately 10:20 p.m. while getting into my car,” Ataullahjan wrote in her First Information Report, known as a FIR, which police use to launch investigations, “two persons on a motorcycle grabbed my handbag and fled with it.”
She told police her handbag contained US$4,200 and 62,000 Pakistani rupees (worth about $810), a necklace of black pearls, two credit cards, a debit card and her Canadian Senate identification card.
The mugging took place in a shopping district known as the Super Market in Sector F-6 of Islamabad, police said.
Ataullahjan could not be reached for comment but confirmed the attack through social media.
“I was mugged yesterday,” she said on Twitter Wednesday. “To everyone who has written or called, thank you for your well wishes. I am thankful to be OK.”
She was not injured, police confirmed.
The thieves were riding a 125cc Honda, a popular commuter motorcycle in Pakistan. Investigators examined video surveillance images and found the motorcycle had a blue gas tank.
“Both of the guys were previously involved in similar incidents,” the police officer said, and a search of known street thieves found a suspect with a similar motorcycle. Officers found the bike parked outside his home when investigators arrived to speak with him.
During interrogation, he admitted his involvement and led police to a second suspect, police said. Both men were arrested at their homes in neighbouring Rawalpindi.
They were identified by police only by their first names of Atif and Zohaib; both are 22 years old and related.
“Now she is satisfied,” the officer said of Ataullahjan.
Ataullahjan was born in Mardan in northern Pakistan’s Peshawar valley, near the Afghanistan border. Her father, Saranjam Khan, was a senator in Pakistan and her grandfather, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, was the leader of an independence movement from British rule, according to her official biography.
She attended school in Pakistan with Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister, who was assassinated in 2007.
Ataullahjan, who turned 65 on Saturday, came to Canada in 1980 as a young bride and settled in the Toronto area. She is co-founder of the Canadian branch of the Citizens Foundation, an international group that builds schools for Pakistan’s poor. An old news story said the family returns to Pakistan every year to visit family members.
In 2008 she was an unsuccessful Conservative candidate in Mississauga-Brampton South and in 2010 was named as a Conservative member to the Senate, becoming the first Canadian senator of Pakistani origin.
It is not known how long Ataullahjan has been in Pakistan, or if there is a government component to her visit.
Global Affairs Canada did not answer questions about the incident and Ataullahjan’s role prior to deadline on Sunday.
Ataullahjan tweeted on April 21 about meeting with Pakistani Senator Sherry Rehman and the following day published a photo of sunlight breaking through dark clouds.
On Friday, she tweeted a photo of herself meeting with the mother of Mashal Khan, a 23-year-old journalism student at a university in Mardan who was fatally beaten and shot April 13 by an enraged mob for supposedly blaspheming against Islam.
“Many days later I still find it hard to express the horror I feel at the death of #MashalKhan didn’t know how to console his amazing mother,” she tweeted.