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Thursday, February 15, 2024

IHC stays interior ministry order to deport US blogger Cynthia Ritchie

The US blogger asserts that her visa application was turned down without any cause, and that she had fulfilled all legal obligations required to extend her stay in Pakistan.

The interior ministry’s decision to deport US blogger Cynthia Ritchie was stayed on Monday by the Islamabad High Court (IHC). Ritchie had petitioned the IHC on Saturday, challenging the interior ministry’s decision to deny her an extension on her visa and ordering her to leave the country within 15 days.

Justice Minallah assures Ritchie she will get justice interior ministry deport Cynthia Ritchie

The interior secretary, deputy secretary and the director-general of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) have been listed as respondents in the case filed by Ritchie. The US blogger asserts that her visa application was turned down without any cause, and that she had fulfilled all legal obligations required to extend her stay in Pakistan.

After hearing her arguments, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah stopped the interior ministry from deporting Ritchie and issued notices to the home ministry, the DG FIA and others. “Visas of Pakistanis are denied every day and no reason is provided,” Justice Minallah remarked. He assured that the petitioner that she would get complete justice in the case.

It was also stated by the blogger that she had applied for an extension in her work visa twice, but was given a business visa instead by the authorities, against the visa policy in place. It must be noted that Ritchie has no company registered in Pakistan.

Read More: Cynthia Ritchie threatens to unleash ‘unholy hell’ in US if deported from Pakistan

Regarding this whole issue Ritchie commented: “Whether I am in Pakistan or USA I will continue fighting the hypocrisy of Liberals & self proclaimed Human Rights activists of Pakistan. Borders cannot stop me Loving Pakistan & its people who gave me respect and love. I won’t stop fighting for the right cause. Pakistan Zindabad!”

IHC orders interior ministry to explain business visa policy

Previously, the IHC itself had urged the ministry to decide upon Ritchie’s stay in Pakistan and the extension of her visa.

In an earlier hearing, the court was told that her visa had expired on August 31. The interior ministry submitted a written report before the IHC on a petition moved by a lawyer who belonged to PPP, seeking directives to deport the American blogger.

The IHC asked the interior ministry about the business visa policy and gave one last chance to the ministry to satisfy the court in the case of the deportation of the American blogger.

Ritchie was restrained form speaking out against political figures of Pakistan. Her lawyer, Imran Feroze, assured the court that no such statements would be made by the blogger.

Read More: Cynthia Ritchie asked to leave the country within 15 days

Interior ministry’s previous allowance to Cynthia Ritchie 

On 17th July, the interior ministry said in its order that according to security agency’s report, Cynthia had not been found involved in illegal and anti-state activities.

The order previously issued by the secretary interior was a confession of issuing work visa to Ritchie, against the law. This order was brought up by Chief Justice Athat Minallah, who said the same had raised serious questions.

Interior ministry had decided not to deport US citizen Cynthia Ritchie. The ministry reversed this decision on PPP application seeking to deport US Blogger.

The interior ministry had given a clean chit to US blogger Cynthia Ritchie. However, it is after the IHC directed the interior ministry to provide a copy of the decision, and after the hearing, that the ministry reverted its decision. Now, the ministry is again being told to reverse its decision.

Read More: Cynthia Ritchie sends defamation notice to Yousuf Raza Gillani

Chief Justice IHC expressed dissatisfaction with the Ministry’s earlier order 

Chief Justice Athar Minallah during the hearing on Tuesday expressed displeasure with the interior ministry’s decision. Expressing dissatisfaction with the representative of interior ministry, the bench asked on what basis had the ministry made its decision.

`Is there any law or policy?’, The chief justice asked. He questioned whether the ministry had any documents which explained the visa policy for foreigners.

The court remarked that if someone were to come tomorrow on a business visa and give a statement against prime minister, would they be treated in the same way – with such lax attitude?

The Chief Justice of IHC stressed that the laws and policies must be applied in a non-discriminatory manner, the interior ministry however, had disregarded this fact in the matter at hand in its earlier decision.

During the hearing, the ministry’s representative was asked what would have happened if someone like Ritchie made a political statement against the prime minister or any other institution.

The ministry representative was unable to answer how the petitioner’s case was different. The chief justice said that if the appointed representative of the ministry failed to satisfy the court at the next hearing, the interior secretary would be summoned.