Her dedication, hard work and commitment towards her country are quite inspiring
Namira Salim is known to most as the First Pakistani Astronaut. However, her contributions to the nation go far beyond her potential spaceflight and adventures as the first Pakistani to reach the three poles of the world. Unlike traditional expeditions, Namira undertook her polar journeys as peace expeditions when she raised her universal peace flag, “Peace Making with National Souls” at the North Pole in 2007, at the South Pole in 2008 and as the first Asian to Skydive (tandem) over Mount Everest in 2008.
“In these troubled times for our nation, this was my way of making peace and conveying to the world that Pakistan is a tolerant country,” she recalls.
Her adventures have often overshadowed her work as an artist. Namira’s arts and collectibles created under her private label “A Soul Affair” and her innovative art with built-in music and messages in the voices of world leaders have promoted peace and goodwill at the SAARC Summit in January 2004, the United Nations General Assembly (New York) in May 2002 and during UNESCO’s Executive Board (Paris) in October 2000.
Namira, who holds an Ivy League Masters degree in International Affairs from Columbia University, has long played the role of a fitting diplomat for Pakistan. She served as Pakistan’s honourary ambassador for tourism in 2007 and as the first honourary consul of Pakistan to the Principality of Monaco from 2011-2013.
Namira Salim’s story as the Honourary Consul to Monaco, a city-state and a seven hundred year old principality is quite distinct. “While typically an honourary consul is based in a city, this was like being an ambassador in a capital where you have an unparalleled opportunity to promote your nation before a sovereign prince, his prime minister, the foreign minister and the highest of officials,” she explains. It’s noteworthy that Namira was not only honourary consul of Pakistan to Monaco, she actually laid the foundation stone of diplomacy between the two nations and due to her tireless efforts Pakistan and the principality of Monaco established diplomatic relations in February 2009. A distinguished resident of the principality, Namira Salim has played the role of Pakistan’s true ambassador to Monaco since she settled there in 1997. Well respected in official circles, long before she was appointed as honourary consul, she mobilised funds for Pakistan’s earthquake of 2005 and devastating floods of 2010. To date, her efforts have led to over US$0.5 Million raised for humanitarian disasters facing the nation via the government of Monaco and for subsequent reconstruction efforts. That is a huge amount coming from Monaco, which spans merely over 2 square kilometres of land – being the smallest country in the world, after the Vatican.
Unlike traditional expeditions, Namira undertook her polar journeys as peace expeditions when she raised her universal peace flag, “Peace Making with National Souls” at the North Pole in 2007, at the South Pole in 2008 and as the first Asian to Skydive (tandem) over Mount Everest in 2008.
In recognition to her tireless efforts, in mid 2011 her name was recommended by the government of Pakistan to the principality of Monaco as honourary consul of Pakistan. On August 1, 2011, His Serene Highness Prince Albert II accepted Namira Salim’s nomination. On March 29, 2012, she organized a grand ceremony at the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco in the presence of Prince Michel Roger, the prime minister and the foreign minister of Monaco marking the inauguration of the consulate of Pakistan. The fitting ceremony was a colourful display of models representing the regional dresses of Pakistan, an exhibition of Pakistan’s art, culture, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, exports and a vibrant film animating sights and sounds of the country. The elaborate and glamorous event, in which she invested Euros 50,000, made headline news in Monaco. Moreover, given her adventures and profile, with Namira Salim in this role, the country’s image got a boost.
“As the first Pakistani Astronaut and as honourary consul of Pakistan to Monaco, my first project was related to promoting space technology in Pakistan. I was greatly honoured when Thales Alenia Space, the largest European manufacturer of Space Systems and Satellites invited me to their plant in Cannes,” says Namira. The Pakistani flag was raised in her honour as she was escorted in the high security premises. “I was given the most fascinating tour of their laboratories where space probes and satellites were in the making and they said, ‘You love space and we want to sell satellites to your country. Can you take us there officially to talk to SUPARCO?’”
Armed with her passion for outer space, at the outset, Namira Salim focused all her efforts on this project. Her persistence paid off. Thales Alenia Space got the approval from chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff to visit Pakistan and to officially negotiate with those concerned.
In appreciation of Monaco government’s timely assistance and the prince’s great sensitivity towards the earthquake of 2005 and with the unwavering commitment of the Earthquake Rehabilitation & Reconstruction Authority (ERRA), Namira Salim secured an all-girl high school in the earthquake stricken areas of Pakistan to be dedicated to HSH Prince Albert II. This school, which is a beautiful facility in Bagh, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, was accepted by HSH the Prince, to be named after him. “I would like to convey my heart-felt gratitude to all officials at ERRA for their continued cooperation and absolute professionalism. It has been an immense pleasure for me to work with them on this project since 2008,” explains Namira.
Another project worth mentioning is a partnership between ERRA and Foundation Prince Albert II in the area of Environment. Foundation Prince Albert II isdedicated to protecting the environment and to encouraging sustainable development, in the areas of climate change, biodiversity and water. ERRA is an environmentally conscious organization and facilitates stakeholders to plan and optimize conservation of natural resources and promote environmental awareness. A tedious and long application process was made easy by Namira’s efforts and contacts. Both parties agreed to contribute Euros 150,000 each to a selected project.
Namira Salim is a true role model and truly a woman of many wonders. Her dedication, hard work and commitment towards her country, both as a citizen and her role as an ambassador are quite inspiring. It’s an exciting year ahead for her as she prepares for her spaceflight with Virgin Galactic as Pakistan’s first ambassador in space.