Letters: No point in talking to the Taliban

These letters were published in the 4th February edition of the Independent
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You suggest that Pakistan is right to negotiate with the terrorist organisations in their midst (editorial, 30 January).

These people murdered nearly 700 Shia in 2013. They boast of the assassinations and massacres they commit, brazenly affirming their genocidal objective of eradicating the whole “infidel” population of Pakistan, which includes Ahmadi Muslims, Christians and Hindus.

Last September, their suicide bombers killed at least 75 worshippers attending Mass in Peshawar’s historic All Saints Church .

A fortnight ago gunmen murdered three Express TV workers in Karachi, and their spokesman struck a deal live on air with a senior journalist from the channel, that they would stop killing Express journalists on condition they were given air time to present their extremist views. So anybody who disagrees with them is a target.

These people want to change Pakistan, and ultimately the world, into an Islamic caliphate governed by seventh-century rules. Negotiating with them is futile, because they believe murder of infidels, and the promotion of the caliphate, are commanded by God.

Eric Avebury, House of Lords

A political leader without policies

In his article of 27 January, Nigel Farage suggested he was only a candidate for Ukip in the 2010 election. It is true that he abandoned the leadership in the run-up to the election, but he remained the leader in all but name. He made far more visits to the Ukip campaign HQ than Lord Pearson, the official leader. Ahead of media appearances, he was briefed at length by Ukip staff on the relevant policies, which he would then argue and defend.

I authored the 16-page summary of the manifesto which was launched by Mr Farage at the Ukip spring conference in 2010, despite his claiming proudly on arrival that he hadn’t bothered to read the thing. Mr Farage recently boasted about the appointment of a new dedicated Head of Policy “to develop intelligent, costed policies which will form a manifesto for the 2015 general”.  That “new” appointment is Tim Aker, who did sterling voluntary work writing parts of the 2010 manifesto Mr Farage denounced as “drivel”.

Mr Farage referred to a manifesto of 486 pages. This is wholly inaccurate. The 486 pages were 17 separate policy papers produced by over 100 policy experts, including the former commander of the UK’s nuclear submarine fleet, who put together the defence paper – which was warmly praised by the UK National Defence Association. All were binned by Mr Farage, who’d prefer to have a blank piece of paper than a manifesto.

Mr Farage is a political leader who doesn’t believe in policies. Without policies he can be neither serious nor credible.

David Campbell Bannerman MEP, (Conservative), Brussels

Fit matters more than fat

The World Health Organisation in its obesity report (3 February) appears not to have noticed that the car dominates our residential roads, and this prevents children from playing outside close to home, as they have done since before becoming Homo sapiens. When they can play out, children are active and have a healthy lifestyle without costly intervention from the state. 

The major problem is lack of fitness rather than obesity. Obviously they are related but primacy needs to be given to addressing the lack of fitness.

Rob Wheway, Director, Children’s Play Advisory Service, Coventry

Common sense or shifting blame?

While I wholeheartedly agree that rape is always the fault of the rapist and never the victim (Alice Jones, 1 February), I think Irma Kurtz had a fair point.

Choosing to become intoxicated beyond the point where you can reasonably expect to make your feelings and preferences obvious in a coherent way, is to choose to put yourself at unnecessary risk.

The decision to rape someone is made by the rapist, but don’t we all have a responsibility to ourselves to put our safety first? We should ensure rapists are stopped and punished. We should also ensure as we raise our daughters that they develop self-awareness and adopt a positive attitude to keeping themselves and their friends safe from myriad situations where huge intakes of alcohol increase their vulnerability.

Vicky Bayley, Buckinghamshire

Alice Jones is being rather unkind to Irma Kurtz, who asks women not to put themselves at risk of rape by drinking excess alcohol.

Does Alice Jones believe in leaving her sports car with the hood down, keys in the ignition, on the High Street? Perhaps a sign in the window saying “Theft Is Wrong” will work? I hear no campaign against insurance companies who will reduce your claim, when it is stolen, on the basis of “contributory negligence”.

There are nasty people about. Rape is wrong. Theft is wrong. But please don’t pillory people, like Irma Kurtz, who just talk common sense.

Phil Isherwood, Leigh, Lancashire

If we had stayed out of the Great War

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown bemoans current efforts to commemorate the First World War (3 February). Might I suggest that remembering, as we do on Remembrance Sunday, is not the same as glorifying.

She also quotes Niall Ferguson as being antiwar. I read his article in this month’s BBC History Magazine. In the same issue six other historians suggest that Britain’s involvement was either inevitable, morally necessary, or both. Presumably, the alternative would have been some form of appeasement – not a policy with a proud record.

Graham Hudson, London SW19

Niall Ferguson’s view that the Great War “was the biggest error in modern history” is at least in part shaped by the belief that without it the British Empire might well have survived as a multi-national super-power – as would the more authoritarian multi-national empires in central and eastern Europe.

Not such a bad idea in my view, but I am surprised to find it supported by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. Is she secretly nostalgic for the European and world order before August 1914?

R S Foster, Sheffield

Yes, minister for education

Come come, Sir David Bell, you and Baroness Morgan have very short memories. Ministers of Education have always wanted yes-men. The graveyards are full of memorials to the Advisory Councils, the Schools Council for Curriculum and Examinations, the Secondary Examinations Council, the Schools Curriculum Development Committee, the National Curriculum Committee,  the School Examination and Assessment Committee and countless others which failed to jump to the whim of whoever happened to be the minister.

Perhaps it’s time, come to think of it, to refresh the office of Secretary of State. The present incumbent’s been there quite a long time.

John Mann, (formerly Secretary,  Schools Council for Curriculum and Examinations), London NW2

Prevent floods? As soon hold back the tide

I live on the edge of the Somerset Levels on a bump, so, thankfully, we are dry. The Levels are a true, 100-square-mile flood plain. They hold the water that drains from  the surrounding hills: the Mendips, the Poldens, the Blackdowns, the Quantocks and Exmoor.

The plain’s small rivers cannot empty themselves into the sea because the 15-metre spring tides have the second highest range in the world. High tides approach and recede every 12 hours; then the rivers cannot empty themselves and flood back over the plain. Only during the 12 hours of ebbs can they drain.

If the little rivers were widened and dredged, they would be more efficient, but not enough to stop the flooding.

It would certainly help if fewer ill-designed, tiny, unwanted and expensive homes were built on the Levels’ slopes. This would preserve ground-water retention and stop this unneeded despoliation of our lovely county.

If artificial rivers were constructed, that ran directly into the sea, they would do what our little rivers and drains cannot. But they would need to be big and numerous, each with far larger control-barrages than the Thames’s.

Are these solutions absurd and all too much to hope for? If so, we should try the ridiculous and reduce the tidal range. I hear that the Chinese are mining minerals from the moon and bringing them back to earth. If they did this really well, they might make it hollow and reduce its mass. This would work.

Mick Humphreys, Creech St Michael,  Somerset

It seems that everyone is to blame for the flooding in Somerset. The fact that it has rained almost every day for a month, and is some of the worst weather for 100 years, doesn’t seem to matter. It’s someone’s fault.

Sometimes we have to accept that you can’t do anything about this. This is nature.

Martyn Pattie, Ongar, Essex