Interior Ministry informs Islamabad High Court U.S. blogger is in Pakistan on an ‘extended’ visa
Pakistan’s Interior Ministry on Friday informed the Islamabad High Court that U.S. blogger Cynthia D. Ritchie has been working on several projects in collaboration with the Inter-Services Public Relations and the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government and is currently in the country on an ‘extended’ visa.
In a report submitted to the IHC as part of proceedings on a petition filed by a Pakistan Peoples Party activist questioning how Ritchie had continued to remain in Pakistan despite her visa expiring in March, the ministry said that the blogger’s visa application had noted her links to the ISPR and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government.
Ritchie “informed in her application that she had been working with Walkabout Films in collaboration with ISPR and the KPK Government on various film projects in the country. She further stated that she was waiting for complete documents for the formal extension of her business visa for one year, which may take a few more days, therefore she requested for a temporary extension of 30 days in her visa,” it said. “She also attached a letter … from ISPR stating that Walkabout Films Private Limited is undertaking various projects in collaboration with ISPR and she is working with Walkabout Films on some projects,” it added.
Additional Attorney General Tariq Mehmood Khokhar, representing the state, submitted that Ritchie’s visa had been extended until Aug. 31, adding she had not committed any illegal or anti-state actions, as alleged in the petition.
The Interior Ministry report claimed that Ritchie had denied all allegations against her, adding that while her visa had expired on March 2, she had submitted an application for renewal before the date of expiry. “However, due to COVID-19 situation, no extensions were being processed and all foreigners were granted extension, therefore, she was still staying in Pakistan under a valid visa as extended by the Ministry of Interior,” it added.
In her response, Ritchie said she had appropriate clearances from authorities concerned for her travels to restricted areas such as the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas. The Interior Ministry claimed she had also denied defaming any political leaders on social media—despite her tweets clearly showing her targeting the PPP’s leadership on multiple occasions.
The Interior Ministry also claimed that Ritchie’s social media posts were currently sub judice and being probed by the Federal Investigation Agency under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016. However, it added, no reports of anti-state activities by the respondent on social media had been received by the ministry and thus it did not feel any action was merited at this stage.
According to the report, Ritchie’s application for a visa extension is currently in process. It said the respondent was required to strictly comply with the laws of Pakistan while staying and doing business in the country.
The court adjourned the hearing till next week for final arguments.
The petition, filed by PPP activist Chaudhry Iftikhar Ahmed, alleges that Ritchie is in Pakistan on an expired business visa, adding that she had misstated information in her extension application. It also refers to the respondent’s social media posts and media statements, claiming these were derogatory and objectionable.