Weekday Squib: The cartoon and the parliamentary resolution

Who said being a political cartoonist was an easy job?

Bill Garner, op-ed page cartoonist at the Washington Times got more than he bargained for with his take on the arrest of Abu Faraj al Libbi. The Pakistani government took ‘strong notice’ of the cartoon and described it as ‘contemptuous’ and ‘an insult to the sentiments of the people both in Pakistan and the US as it strengthens the hands of extremists’. The Pakistani parliament deemed it necessary to pass a unanimous resolution in protest while the country’s religious opposition parties, duly strengthened, have called for nationwide protests (and for Musharraf’s resignation). And yes, the Pakistani ambassador to the United States has been tasked with the uneviable task of raising this with the US authorities, and failing a satisfactory response, to ‘send a legal notice and pursue the matter in court’. Even Nawaz Sharif, from his exile in Saudi Arabia, is reportedly worried that such a cartoon has come to be printed under Musharraf’s watch.

A dog’s life (and times): In an unexpected “tribute” to the long reach of the influence of this newspaper, the Pakistani parliament adopted, unanimously, a resolution decrying Mr. Garner’s cartoon, and the Pakistani embassy has protested “an insult to the sentiments of the people of both Pakistan and the United States as it strengthens the hands of the extremists.” This imputes more power to a mere newspaper than any newspaper deserves, but we take the embassy’s point and offer the assurance that no insult was intended. Other Pakistani politicians have demanded an apology from no less than the president of the United States. The suggestion that any American newspaper speaks for the government or a president betrays a profound ignorance of how America works. If an American president could prevent newspaper cartoonists from insulting, reviling, abusing, affronting and “dissing” politicians, he would not exercise this power in behalf of anyone but himself. Newspaper cartoonists have been insulting, reviling, abusing, affronting and “dissing” presidents for more than a century, and all that presidents can do about it is grin, bear it and ask for the originals, for framing and display on desk or wall.

For his part, Mr. Garner, who admires Pakistan and, we might as well say it, loves old hounds, meant no offense or injury… And if he knows what’s good for him, he’ll be careful about what he says about cats. [Washington Times]

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