Ministry seeks more time to file new report in US blogger case

Updated 05 Aug 2020

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Interior ministry given three weeks to reconcile its earlier report. — Twitter/File
Interior ministry given three weeks to reconcile its earlier report. — Twitter/File

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Interior on Tuesday sought more time from the Islamabad High Court (IHC) for submitting a new report in the matter related to US blogger Cynthia Ritchie’s stay in Pakistan.

IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah, while hearing the petition of an activist of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), gave three weeks to the interior ministry to reconcile its earlier report.

The interior ministry had submitted a report to the IHC according to which 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 petitioner, Chaudhry Iftikhar Ahmed, had challenged Ms Ritchie’s long stay in Pakistan after the expiry of her business visa in March. He accused her of being involved in a media campaign against leaders of the opposition party.

According to the petition, Ms Ritchie’s business visa expired on March 2, 2020 and she was not entitled to stay in Pakistan afterwards. The business via had been granted on March 18, 2019 without fulfilling legal formalities, the petitioner alleged, adding that she also misstated information in her visa extension application submitted to the Ministry of Interior after the expiry of her business visa in March.

The petitioner referred to various activities of Ms Ritchie and her media statements and social media posts which, according to him, were derogatory and objectionable.

The interior ministry’s earlier report said: “Cynthia D. Ritchie denied all the allegations against her; she stated that her visa expired on March 2, 2020 and she submitted an application before the date of expiry. However, due to Covid-19 situation, no extensions were being processed and all foreigners were granted extension and, therefore, she was still staying in Pakistan under a valid visa as extended by the Ministry of Interior.”

The IHC chief justice has already rejected this report. The interior ministry sought time to record statements of Ms Ritchie and the petitioner.

The court sought report in three weeks and adjourned the hearing till Sept 1.

Published in Dawn, August 5th, 2020