ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday sought an explanation from the Ministry of Interior about the status and terms and conditions of the visa issued to US blogger Cynthia D. Ritchie, asking it to explain if she was entitled to making political statements.
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah sought the explanation while taking up a petition filed by an activist of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).
The petitioner, Chaudhry Iftikhar Ahmed, has adopted in the petition that Ms Ritchie is a foreign national and she has stayed in Pakistan without a valid visa. He sought her deportation.
It is the case of the petitioner that Ms Ritchie’s visa had expired and yet respondents are not proceeding against her in accordance with the law.
According to the petitioner, Ms Ritchie is not a registered voter and yet she has been allowed and facilitated to interfere and comment on political matters. It has been argued that she is being facilitated to tarnish the image of the country by bringing the country’s political leadership into disrepute through false and concocted statements/allegations.
Wonders whether US blogger can pass political remarks
The petitioner’s counsel argued that activities of Ms Ritchie were in violation of the terms and conditions of the visa which was earlier granted to her. He said that respondent authorities, including the Ministry of Interior, Federal Investigation Agency and police, were refusing to act in accordance with the law.
The court issued notices to the respondents and asked the interior ministry to depute “an authorised representative [who] shall be nominated by the Secretary Ministry of Interior to appear before this Court on the date fixed and explain whether visa of respondent No.1 [Ms Ritchie] has expired. If so then what course is required to be adopted under the law. The authorised representative shall also explain whether the terms and conditions of visa issued to a foreign national allow the latter to make statements of political nature as alleged on behalf of the petitioner in case of respondent No.1”.
Earlier, Cynthia Ritchie had alleged that the PPP was trying to get her deported.
The US blogger had on June 10 tweeted: “Since #PPP is trying to have me deported, I request @pid.gov to place me on #ECL. So I can fight this battle. I’m not going anywhere. My vacations can wait. Chalo!”
However, hours later, she had shared a confidential document, dated June 8, 2020, about the directive given for putting her name on the no-fly list to ensure her presence before the relevant authorities and courts of law, and tweeted: “‘Confidential’… If true, I don’t have to worry about filing for extension, now.”
Earlier, PPP leader Rehman Malik, who is also chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Interior, had demanded that the US blogger be placed on the ECL and asked the interior secretary, Islamabad police chief and chief commissioner to provide her foolproof security during her stay in Pakistan as apprehensions had been expressed in a TV show about her safety.
Published in Dawn, June 27th, 2020