US blogger Cynthia Ritchie not granted visa extension, told to leave country in 15 days

The Ministry of Interior has directed US blogger Cynthia Richie to leave Pakistan within 15 days, after rejecting her application for visa extension. The development comes a day after the Islamabad High Court (IHC) expressed dissatisfaction over the interior ministry’s recent order related to the validity of Ritchie’s visa and gave the government a final opportunity to render proper assistance.

In June, the IHC had sought an explanation from the ministry about the status and terms and conditions of the visa issued to Ritchie, asking it to explain if she was entitled to making political statements.

IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah had sought the explanation while taking up a petition filed by an activist of the PPP.

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

On Tuesday, the deputy attorney general submitted a copy of a recent order passed by the interior ministry’s secretary to the IHC. 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 Cynthia 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 court then gave a final opportunity to the federal government to render proper assistance, noting that its conduct so far had raised questions of public importance having consequences relating to enforcement of fundamental rights.

Meanwhile, Ritchie claimed via a tweet that the interior ministry had rejected her application “under pressure”.

Source: Dawn