ISLAMABAD-The Islamabad High Court (IHC) Monday issued stay orders against Interior Ministry’s decision of denying visa extension to US citizen Cynthia Dawn Ritchie.

A single bench of IHC comprising Chief Justice Athar Minallah conducted hearing of the US citizen’s petition wherein she had challenged the Ministry of Interior’s decision.

Earlier, the Interior Ministry had refused to extend her visa and asked her to leave the country within 15 days.

The court also issued notices to the interior ministry, Director General FIA and others directing them to submit their reply in this matter. The court also directed Cynthia to submit an affidavit regarding her allegations.

In her petition filed through Imran Feroze Malik Advocate, she assailed the order of the Ministry dated 01.09.2020, whereby her request for permission to stay in Pakistan was refused.

The IHC bench noted in its order that the petitioner had filed an application for registration of a criminal case wherein serious allegations were raised. The matter was remanded by this court to the learned Ex-Officio Justice of Peace for deciding the petition afresh. The petition is pending and time has been specified for its disposal.

The counsel for the petitioner stated before the court that some other complaints have also been filed, which are pending before the Federal Investigation Agency. 

The IHC bench observed, “The petitioner shall be at liberty to file an affidavit, before the next date of hearing, highlighting her grievances/complaints, if any, other than the aforementioned pending proceedings. If no affidavit is filed then it would be reasonable to presume that she does not have any complaints/grievances other than those regarding which applications have already been filed.”

It added, “It is noted that issuance of a visa or refusal to grant permission to stay in Pakistan is not a right but a privilege and thus a writ is not competent in such a matter. Nonetheless, it is the duty of this court to ensure that justice is dispensed in matters pending before competent forums/courts because even a non-citizen is protected under Article 9 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973.”

The court said that an undertaking has already been given by the learned counsel for the petitioner in another matter i.e. W.P. No.1161/2020 that the latter will not give/issue statements and she may include all her grievances/complaints in the affidavit.

Later, the IHC bench directed the office to issue notices to the respondents for filing a report and parawise comments and deferred hearing till September 22 while it held, “In the meanwhile, status quo shall be maintained till the next date fixed.”

Ritchie moved the petition before the IHC challenging the Interior Ministry’s decision to deny her a visa extension.

In the petition, she cited the interior secretary, deputy secretary and DG FIA as respondents. The petitioner stated that she had fulfilled all the legal obligations required of her in her visa application to ensure her continued stay in Pakistan. 

She adopted that the Interior Ministry had refused her visa without any solid reason and added that rejecting her visa extension was a violation of the General Clauses Act and the country’s visa policy.