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Harper, opposition back call to nominate Pakistani girl for Nobel

Malala Yousafzai has been an outspoken proponent of the right to education for girls in Pakistan.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has signed a petition to nominate Malala Yousafzai, the 14-year-old Pakistani activist shot by Taliban assailants, for the Nobel Peace Prize.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, interim Liberal leader Bob Rae and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May have all also signed.

Malala has been an outspoken proponent of the right to education for girls in Pakistan. She began blogging under an alias for the BBC three years ago about life living under the thumb of the Taliban, but eventually became more public about human rights.

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Also this week, Canadian Senator Salma Ataullahjan paid a visit to Malala's parents, who are in Britain with their daughter who is recovering there.

Ms. Ataullahjan is also from Pakistan, from same town in the Swat district, and conversant in Pashto, one of the region's dominant languages.

The senator spent 90 minutes Wednesday chatting with the girl's mother, Toorpekai, and father, Ziauddin, in a private room at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.

Ms. Ataullahjan was unable to see Malala, who is recovering from being shot twice by Taliban assailants as she rode a school bus in early October.

Mr. Yousafzai, a poet and schoolteacher, told Ms. Ataullahjan he knew the senator's family.

"They were so surprised," Ms. Ataullahjan said.

"When the wife came in and we sat down, and I turned to her and spoke to her in our mother tongue, Pashto, she said, 'Oh, it's so nice to have someone speak to me in Pashto, so nice to have someone speak to me in the language.'"

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Ms. Ataullahjan had been speaking at a World Health Organization conference in Geneva, and made the personal decision to take a detour to Birmingham. She made the arrangements to meet with the Yousafzais through the Pakistan embassy.

Ms. Ataullahjan said the Yousafzais are pleased with their daughter's recovery. The senator told them she would do everything in her power to make sure Malala fulfilled her dream of becoming a lawyer.

"People have been going, but at some level we connected," Ms. Ataullahjan said of the visit.

"I said I have daughters, we exchanged personal numbers, he gave me his e-mail, we did all that. I said look, if there's anything I can do, if you need help with something, just call me."

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