ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday termed the interior ministry’s report on US blogger Cynthia D. Ritchie’s case as unsatisfactory and directed the interior secretary to review it.
The court was hearing a petition filed by a worker of the Pakistan Peoples Party, Iftikhar Ahmed, in which he had requested it to instruct the interior ministry to expel Ms Ritchie over visa and passport-related issues and her alleged defamatory tweets against PPP leaders.
Last week the interior ministry had submitted a report to the IHC, which said Ms Ritchie was in Pakistan on an extended visa. The ministry, however, did not comment on the allegations that she had posted defamatory tweets against the PPP leadership, saying the matter was sub judice.
In its report, the ministry said that Ms Ritchie was visiting Pakistan on a business visa and was working on some projects of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government.
The court had referred the matter to the interior ministry through a verbal order after hearing the stance of the US blogger.
Sardar Latif Khan Khosa, the counsel for the petitioner, pointed out that Ms Ritchie had not been registered as a voter in any constituency in the country and yet she had tweeted on local political matters.
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah observed that the allegations against the US citizen were of serious nature. He inquired about the projects on which she was working in collaboration with the ISPR and the provincial government and whether any taxpayer funds were disbursed for the projects.
Justice Minallah remarked that it was the responsibility of the state to conduct transparent investigations into the allegations levelled against the blogger and that the interior secretary should keep in mind the reputation of the country while considering the matter.
Additional Attorney General Tariq Mehmood Khokhar sought some time from the court to seek instructions from the government. Subsequently, the hearing was adjourned until August 4.
Published in Dawn, July 25th, 2020