Pakistan’s 'song of llion'

Published March 24, 2014
Is General Raheel willing to deploy 12 divisions of his finest troops for the war against the Taliban?  — Photo by AFP
Is General Raheel willing to deploy 12 divisions of his finest troops for the war against the Taliban? — Photo by AFP

Hector was the valiant and honorable son of King Priam of Troy and the city’s most valiant warrior, his death in many ways, signified the end of Troy described by Redfield as “as a martyr to loyalties”.

His nobility in death is shown in stark contrast to the Greek deceit. While the story has been narrated over the last 3,000 years, it is worth repeating for the lessons it contains in the context of current Pakistan.

The Greeks most formidable combatant Achilles had been brooding and would not take to the battle field. But once Hector, disguised in Achilles’ armour, killed his closest companion Patroclus, stripping him off the armour, an enraged Achilles engaged in battle and mercilessly killed the Trojans, dividing their army into two. Achilles killed so many Trojans that the river turned red with blood, he then charged onto the gates of Troy, making an encounter with Hector inevitable.

The final encounter took place outside the gates of Troy, Hector who had ordered the army to camp outside the city walls, would not retreat back into the safety of the walls as that would appear to be dishonorable to the troops still outside, despite his parent’s pleadings. Yet, he knew that alone he could not defeat Achilles, desperate, he circled the city walls thrice, whilst being chased by the merciless Greek. During the chase, he thought he could reason with his foe and offer to return Helen, the stated reason for this battle, but then he realised that the war was not about a woman but about power. He was in no position to negotiate.

“Lions do not talk to mortals” was Achilles response when Hector requested that the victor should not mutilate the loser’s corpse.

On Mount Olympus, the Gods had also taken sides each supporting their favourite. At one point, the God Apollo almost came to blows but despite taunts would not “get into a fight over mere mortals”.

Although his fate was sealed, Achilles still could not manage to kill the Trojan hero.

Then, the goddess Athena took it upon herself to tip the balance, and disguised as Hector’s brother Deiphobus descended upon the battle field. Overjoyed, Hector readily accepted the new arrival without question as together he thought they could take on Achilles, he turned around and faced the enemy wearing Achilles' armour, only for his new-found ally to disappear, Hector realised that he had been tricked by the Gods.

Achilles knew the weaknesses of Hector’s armour, whilst Hector could not fathom its strengths, Thus the valiant Trojan fell and the fate of the city was sealed.

Here’s how some lessons from this battle may be contextualised into present day Pakistan:

• Wars are about power not issues: The battle for Troy was never about Helen but about “empire”, similarly the battle in Pakistan is not about Islam or Shariah but about imposing the Taliban’s power over a region of the entire country.

• Always wear your own battle armour. Hector wore Achilles armour; he did not know its strengths, but Achilles knew its weakness. Using religious groups as proxy warriors in Kashmir and Afghanistan, the country has suffered as the enemy knows the army’s weaknesses, while the army cannot easily penetrate the Taliban’s armour.

• Choose carefully who to go into battle with. Hector was tricked by Athena, similarly the Pakistan army, having used the religious zealots as warriors, face the same groups turning against them.

• Fight to win, the consequence of a loss is severe; Hectors infant son was tossed over the walls and his loving and loyal wife Andromache was taken as a slave. When the Taliban conquered Kabul they castrated and hanged the former ruler Najeebullah.

• Valour and loyalty are important attributes but deceit can win. If the Taliban continue about their murderous ways, there is little point in maintaining a stance for valour.

• Unite your army, for a divided army loses in combat.

• Only negotiate from a position of strength, how else will the enemy pay attention?

Is Chief of Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif willing to deploy 12 divisions of his finest troops for this war?

Similar numbers may be needed in Fata, Karachi, Bahawalpur, Muzaffarabad, Jhang and Muridke.

The battle for Pakistan has begun and the enemy has to be defeated, or Ghalib’s following couplet would be written at the graves of the martyrs of this war:


Hoowai markay joh hum ruswa, howai kyun na gharq darya
Na kabhi janaza uthta, na kahin mazaar hota


If we had to be humiliated after death, why did we not just drown in a river, there would be no pomp at the funeral and no grave for visitors.

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