IHC stays interior ministry order asking US blogger to leave Pakistan

Published September 7, 2020
The court also directed that US blogger Cynthia Ritchie submit an affidavit detailing all her grievances before the next hearing. — Photo via Cynthia Ritchie Twitter
The court also directed that US blogger Cynthia Ritchie submit an affidavit detailing all her grievances before the next hearing. — Photo via Cynthia Ritchie Twitter

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday stayed an interior ministry decision to deport US blogger Cynthia Ritchie and issued notices to the interior secretary and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) director general.

The court also directed that Ritchie submit an affidavit detailing all her grievances before the next hearing before adjourning the case indefinitely.

On Saturday, Ritchie had filed a writ petition in the high court against the ministry's decision to reject an extension in her visa, naming the FIA director general and the interior secretary as respondents.

In her plea, Ritchie said her request for a visa extension had been rejected despite providing all the relevant documents, adding that the interior ministry did not state the reasons for doing so either.

During today's hearing, presided over by IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah, the US blogger's lawyer reiterated that the authorities concerned did not provide a reason for denying Ritchie a visa extension.

At this, Justice Minallah observed that numerous visas are rejected on a daily basis without an explanation.

When her lawyer questioned the law under which her request was denied, the judge replied that no law is required to reject a visa.

"A visa is not a basic right, it is a privilege," the judge remarked. The court also asked whether Ritchie had any other complaints, to which she replied that two petitions were pending in the FIA.

In her petition with the IHC, Ritchie said her visa had expired and she had applied for a work visa with all the necessary documents.

"[But] due to the pandemic situation, the same could not be processed and the visas of all foreigners were extended by a general order, and the same premium was also afforded to the petitioner," it said.

Ritchie said she had moved another application for a work visa due to a change of sponsor which was also not decided due to Covid-19, and was later "shocked" to receive a letter from the interior ministry stating that her visa application had been rejected.

She added that the interior ministry had earlier submitted its comments, during the hearing of a petition filed by an activist of the PPP, that Ritchie was not involved in "anti-state and illegal activity" in Pakistan.

"Further, while filing the visa application all the requirements of a work visa were complied with. Despite that, the visa application was rejected without affording any reasoning," she said in her petition.

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