ISLAMABAD - An American blogger based in Pakistan has accused several of Pakistan’s top opposition politicians of raping and manhandling her.
Cynthia Ritchie, who has been living in Pakistan since 2010, made the allegations in a Facebook video she released Friday.
Ritchie alleged that she was drugged and assaulted by Senator Rehman Malik at his official residence in Islamabad in 2011, while he was serving as the federal interior minister of the coalition government led by his Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).
Ritchie said she also had been “physically manhandled” by the then prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, and one of his cabinet members, Makhdoom Shahabuddin. Ritchie insisted she has evidence to substantiate her claims and was ready to share it with “neutral” investigative journalists.
A spokesman for Malik, who is currently a member of the Pakistani Senate, the upper house of parliament, has rejected the charges as baseless, saying they were aimed at damaging the reputation of the senior politician.
Gilani also denied what he said were unfounded allegations by the American blogger, saying he would be filing a defamation case against her. The former prime minister said he had never met the woman while in office.
Ritchie provided more details on her Twitter account Saturday, saying that Malik “should be asked about the night he invited me to his home in the minister's enclave to discuss my 'visa.' The flowers, the electronic device [unusual] gift & the drugged drinks he gave me.”
RM should be asked about the night he invited me to his home in the minister's enclave to discuss my 'visa'. The flowers, the electronic device (unusual) gift & the drugged drinks he gave me.— Cynthia D. Ritchie (@CynthiaDRitchie) June 6, 2020
Ask him if he remembers what I wore & what he said when he was on top of me. Bc I DO. https://t.co/DBijPIZnR7
She said she was assaulted around the time American special forces had raided and killed Osama bin Laden at his hideout in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad. The American blogger also explained that she “kept quiet,” believing “who in the PPP government would help me against the PPP interior minister?”
Ritchie stated that she contacted the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad to report the incident at the time but received a “less than adequate” response, citing heightened tensions in relations between the two countries stemming from the unilateral American raid against the al-Qaida chief.
US Embassy reaction
A spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy, when contacted by VOA for a reaction to Ritchie’s allegations, said the diplomatic mission provides “appropriate services and support” to all American citizens in Pakistan.
“Due to privacy considerations, we are generally unable to comment on the cases of specific private American citizens,” the spokesperson added.
The allegations have sparked an intense debate in Pakistani media, with demands for an impartial investigation into the charges.
Ritchie’s accusations also follow several weeks of heated exchanges on social media between her and PPP supporters after the opposition party initiated legal action against the U.S. blogger for posting "hateful comments and slander” on social media against its slain leader and former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto.
In one of her controversial tweets late last month, Ritchie alleged that Bhutto ordered her bodyguards to rape women who had affairs with her husband, former Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari
Ritchie said she has decided to release details of assaults by PPP leaders because she has been facing weeks of online intimidation, and threats of rape and sexual harassment from Bhutto party supporters.
Opposition leaders in Pakistan allege the American blogger is a paid propagandist for the government and the Pakistani spy agency, ISI, charges officials reject.
The American woman stated in her Facebook video that she had been invited to Pakistan by the former PPP government 10 years ago, before she started helping the then opposition political party of current Prime Minister Imran Khan to organize their social media campaign.
Ritchie’s commentaries on social media often are critical of Pakistani opposition parties but supportive of Khan’s government, winning her a massive social media following, and making her extremely popular among supporters of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party.
Ritchie revealed she now has been engaged to a “wonderful man who I met in Pakistan,” saying he encouraged her to speak out “so we can move on as a couple.” She did not name the person.
"This battle is really not about that tweet. This battle is really about individuals who know that I have a lot of dirt on a lot of people in this country,” she said.
“Please be assured everything that I have posted, everything that I have discussed on Twitter, I have evidentiary support of, and for,” Ritchie asserted. She said that as a resident in Pakistan, she has taken action in her defense under local laws and has registered a formal complaint with the country’s Federal Investigation Agency for ordering an investigation into the assault against her.