Pak directs American blogger Cynthia Ritchie to leave country within 15 days

Islamabad, PakistanUpdated: Sep 02, 2020, 09:58 PM IST
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Cynthia Ritchie (File photo) Photograph:(IANS)

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The Ministry of Interior took the decision after the Islamabad High Court (IHC) asked authorities to make a final decision about the status of her stay in the country

Pakistan on Wednesday rejected controversial American blogger Cynthia Ritchie's application for visa extension and directed her to leave the country within 15 days.

The Ministry of Interior took the decision after the Islamabad High Court (IHC) asked authorities to make a final decision about the status of her stay in the country.

Radio Pakistan reported that the ministry asked Ritchie to leave the country in 15 days as her visa was not extended.

The IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah in June had sought an explanation from the ministry about the status and terms and conditions of the visa issued to Ritchie on a petition filed by an activist of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), asking it to explain if she was entitled to making political statements, the Dawn newspaper reported.

The petitioner, Chaudhry Iftikhar Ahmed, in the petition said that Ritchie is a foreign national and she has stayed in Pakistan without a valid visa. He also sought her deportation.

Ritchie had in June through a video clip posted on her Facebook page alleged that she was raped by Pakistan's former interior minister Rehman Malik and accused ex-prime minister Yousaf Raza Gillani and another former minister of physically manhandling her in 2011.

She also alleged that late former prime minister Benazir Bhutto condoned rape culture in Pakistan.

The Islamabad's District and Session Court had directed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in June to register a case against Ritchie for maligning Bhutto on social media.

On Tuesday, the deputy attorney general submitted a copy of a recent order passed by the interior ministry's secretary to the IHC in Ritchie's case. The court noted that the secretary had not made reference to any law or policy and appeared to have solely relied on Ritchie's statement.

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

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

The court 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.

The IHC, on Tuesday, also referred back for review the matter related to registration of a first information report against former interior minister Rehman Malik over allegations of rape by Ritchie.

Meanwhile, Ritchie, in a tweet, claimed that the interior ministry had rejected her application "under pressure".

"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," she said.

Ritchie has been living in Pakistan for more than a decade. She introduced herself as an adventure tourist who fell in love with Pakistan.