Islamabad HC stays Pak Govt’s order to deport US blogger

Cynthia D Ritchie (Source: Twitter)

New Delhi (NVI): Islamabad High Court has stayed an interior ministry order to deport US blogger Cynthia D Ritchie, who has been asked to leave Pakistan within 15 days.

Cynthia had earlier accused a former Pakistani minister of rape and also made “derogatory remarks” against former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

The Pakistan Interior Ministry had on September 2 rejected Cynthia Ritchie’s request to extend her Pakistan visa and asked her to leave the country within 15 days.

During the hearing in the case today, the IHC (Islamabad High Court) also issued notices to the interior secretary and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) director general, reports Pakistan daily the Dawn.

The court also directed that Ritchie submit an affidavit detailing all her grievances before the next hearing before adjourning the case indefinitely, the newspaper reported.

Ritchie had filed a writ petition on Saturday in the high court against the ministry’s decision to reject an extension in her visa, naming the FIA director general and the interior secretary as respondents.

The US blogger, in her plea, said her request for a visa extension had been rejected despite providing all the relevant documents, adding that the interior ministry did not state the reasons for doing so either.

During the hearing, when the US blogger’s lawyer reiterated that the authorities concerned did not provide a reason for denying Ritchie a visa extension, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah observed that numerous visas are rejected on a daily basis without an explanation.

When her lawyer questioned the law under which her request was denied, the judge replied that no law is required to reject a visa.

“A visa is not a basic right, it is a privilege,” the judge was quoted as saying by the newspaper. The court also asked whether Ritchie had any other complaints, to which she replied that two petitions were pending in the FIA.

In her petition with the IHC, Ritchie said her visa had expired and she had applied for a work visa with all the necessary documents.

“…due to the pandemic situation, the same could not be processed and the visas of all foreigners were extended by a general order, and the same premium was also afforded to the petitioner,” the IHC order said.

Ritchie said she had moved another application for a work visa due to a change of sponsor which was also not decided due to Covid-19, and was later “shocked” to receive a letter from the interior ministry stating that her visa application had been rejected, the Dawn reported.

She added that the interior ministry had earlier submitted its comments, during the hearing of a petition filed by an activist of the PPP, that Ritchie was not involved in “anti-state and illegal activity” in Pakistan.

“Further, while filing the visa application all the requirements of a work visa were complied with. Despite that, the visa application was rejected without affording any reasoning,” she said in her petition, according to the newspaper.

In June this year, Cynthia D Ritchie, who presents herself as a writer, had alleged publicly that she was raped by the then interior minister Rahman Malik in 2011 at the Presidential House.

In a video, she has also charged the then Prime Minister of Pakistan Yousuf Raza Gillani of physically manhandling her.

The serious charges against top leaders of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) had created an upheaval of sorts, with demands on social media for thorough investigation into the matter.