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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 May 2005, 15:17 GMT 16:17 UK
Dogged by a cartoon
Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain
Parliament condemned the cartoon with a unanimous vote
Parliament in Pakistan is urging the government to seek an apology from The Washington Times newspaper over a cartoon that depicts Pakistan as a dog.

The cartoon shows a US soldier patting a dog holding Libyan al-Qaeda suspect Abu Faraj al-Libbi who was recently arrested in Pakistan.

"Good boy... now go find Bin Laden," the soldier urges the dog.

Cartoonist Bill Garner says he meant no offence and the misunderstanding was caused by a "cultural gap."

Pakistan is a key US ally in the latter's war on terror.

'Strengthening extremism'

"We are disgusted with the insensitivity of the editors of the Washington Times," Pakistan's charge de affaires in Washington, Mohammed Sadiq said on May 6, the day the cartoon appeared.

"It betrays the mindset of the editorial board," he said, warning that "such things" could strengthen the hands of the extremists.

Pakistan's foreign ministry on Saturday said the US government too had condemned the cartoon and hoped that it would not lead to a wider reaction.

But that is exactly what happened when Pakistan's National Assembly resumed its session on Monday.

"The symbol to me was that of friendship. There is a saying in English that a dog is a man's best friend"
Bill Garner
The House passed a unanimous resolution condemning the cartoon and urged the Pakistan government to seek an apology from the paper.

The resolution was presented by the ruling party president and former prime minister Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain who told the parliament that the "government had taken strong notice of the cartoon."

His statement was backed by the foreign office which said the Pakistan embassy had lodged a formal protest with the editorial board of the Washington Times.

"The contemptuous cartoon is an insult to the sentiments of the people both in Pakistan and the US as it strengthens the hands of extremists," foreign office spokesman Jalil Abbas Jilani said.

'Cultural gap'

Cartoonist Bill Garner told Pakistan's Dawn newspaper that he never intended to offend the Pakistani nation.

"It is a cultural gap, a cultural misunderstanding that caused the uproar.

"The symbol to me was that of friendship," he was reported as saying. "There is a saying in English that a dog is a man's best friend."

"There has always been a great friendship with animals, especially dogs, in America".

Mr Garner said that the cartoon was meant to depict "the spirit of goodwill and friendship that exists between the two countries".

He said the reaction to his cartoon was entirely different from what he had expected.

But in Pakistan, the cartoon controversy combined with the issue of desecration of the Muslim holy book at Gauntanamo Bay to trigger a fiery session in the parliament focussed on Pakistan's cooperation with the US.

Some legislators called for a complete review of Pakistan's alliance with the US.

Leader of the opposition Maulana Fazlur Rehman said Pakistan had gone to humiliating lengths to cooperate with the US.

"We want to be friends with the US, but we want friendship not a master-slave relationship," he said.

Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan said that Pakistan should deny the US the use of its bases.

"East is east and West is west, and never the twain shall meet," sighed the Washington Times in an editorial on 10 May in response to the uproar in Pakistan.

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