ISLAMABAD - The Ministry of Interior Wednesday rejected visa extension application of US national Cynthia D. Ritchie directing her to leave the country within 15 days.

“The visa extension application of Cynthia Dawn Ritchie has been rejected and directions have also been issued to her to leave the country within 15 days,” a spokesperson of the ministry said.

In her immediate response, Ms Ritchie showed her surprise over the decision and said that the ministry had rejected her application without giving any reasons. She further said that she would soon exercise her right to appeal against the decision.

“The Ministry of Interior has for the first time, in my over 10+ years in Pakistan, rejected my visa application. No reason has been given,” she said in a Twitter post.

The US national is in the limelight since June this year after she levelled serious allegations against PPP leadership. She had accused PPP leader Senator Rehman Malik for allegedly having her raped in 2011 when he was interior minister of the country — a charge that PPP senator has strongly denied.

The development of visa rejection came a day after the IHC expressed dissatisfaction over the interior ministry's recent order related to the validity of Ritchie’s visa and gave the government a final opportunity in this connection.

In June, the IHC while taking up a petition filed by a PPP activist Chaudhry Iftikhar Ahmed had sought an explanation from the ministry about the status of the visa issued to Ritchie.  

The petitioner had challenged her long stay in Pakistan after the expiry of her business visa in March and for allegedly running a media campaign against leaders of the opposition party. According to the petition, the blogger had been granted business via on March 18, 2019 without fulfilling the legal formalities.

In July, the interior ministry had informed the court that Ritchie is living in Pakistan on an ‘extended’ visa whose validity is August 31. Due to the Covid-19 situation, the ministry had extended visas of all foreigners.

On September 1, the government’s deputy attorney general submitted a copy of a recent order passed by the secretary of interior ministry to the IHC. The court observed that the secretary had not referred to any law or policy and appeared to have solely relied on Ritchie's statement. The secretary’s order said that Ritchie was granted a visa in violation of the policy and laws.

However, the court said that the secretary in his order evaded a key question that whether a foreign national visiting Pakistan on a business visa was allowed to give political statements

The court then gave a final opportunity to the federal government on the issue.