US blogger Cynthia Ritchie directed to leave Pakistan

Zubair Qureshi

Islamabad: Pakistan’s Interior Ministry on September 2 rejected a request by US blogger and journalist Cynthia D Ritchie to extend her visa. The move came a day after the Islamabad High Court (IHC) had directed a local court to re-hear Ritchie’s plea for registration of a rape case against former Interior Minister Rehman A Malik.

The Interior Ministry, while rejecting the US blogger’s request for visa extension, directed her to leave the country within 15 days.

On July 10, the High Court had asked the Interior Ministry to decide on a petition filed by a PPP leader, seeking deportation of the US blogger after she was accused by the party of making derogatory remarks about former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

On Tuesday, while taking up the matter Chief Justice Athar Minallah read out a recent order of the interior ministry noting that the Interior secretary himself was not aware of the policy of the ministry in such matters. The secretary had not made reference to any law or policy and appeared to have solely relied on the statement of Ritchie, Justice Minallah said.

The order is self-contradictory and in conflict with the previous order, the IHC chief justice had observed.

The secretary conceded in his order that Cynthia Ritchie was granted a work visa in violation of policy and laws.

The court had observed that the interior secretary had been evasive in recording his findings regarding the crucial question: whether a foreign national visiting Pakistan on the basis of a business visa was entitled to give statements of a political nature.

Cynthia Ritchie, while reacting to the Interior Ministry’s move, in a tweet termed the decision was taken under pressure and vowed to challenge it in court.

“The MoI -under pressure best known to them- has for the first time, in my over 10+ years in Pakistan, rejected my visa application. No reason has been given. We have a right to file an appeal & will do so. A higher forum must entertain my application & upon merits grant visa,” said she in her post on social media.

US blogger’s allegations

Cynthia Ritchie has been in the news since June 5, 2020 when she accused former Interior Minister and PPP Senator Rehman Malik of raping her in 2011 when the PPP was in power. She also accused ex-PM Yousuf Raza Gilani and ex-health minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin of physically assaulting her.

She also posted some controversial tweets about the PPP leader, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, that prompted a number of PPP activists to file petitions seeking action against her.

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