A pro-peace group gathered Saturday at the Main Salt Lake City Library, venting frustration at the country's military approach in the Middle East.

Although the library's auditorium had mostly empty seats, those in attendance took part in a panel discussion sponsored by the Wasatch Coalition for Peace and Justice.

"We are tired of carrying the burden (politicians) create behind their desks," said Andy Figorski, an Iraq veteran.

The small audience clapped wildly, yelling cheers. Three youths wore tie-dyed T-shirts. Another attendee wore a T-shirt printed "Peace." A man's wheelchair bore a bumper sticker reading, "War is not the answer."

Fahd Ali, a panelist from Pakistan, also believes the answer is not war. Ali said that he has a deep concern about religious militants in his country, saying there is a need for effective long-term solutions to eradicate a problem that did not develop overnight. A military approach, he said, is not one of them.

"I'm extremely upset by the religious militancy in Pakistan, killing innocent civilians," Ali said.

A few months ago, three bombs exploded in his hometown, killing 30 to 40 people. These acts of aggression, Ali said, are met tit-for-tat, eliciting further aggression by his country and other nations. Ali said NATO and the United States have increased missile strikes on suspecting training facilities and hideouts, using spy drones that hover over the mountainous border.

"While a military solution can weaken them in the short term, it is more effective to cut their political and financial sources to take them out."

Ali said that giving "the common tribe man" a voice would politically isolate militants. His fellow countrymen, Ali said, are politically voiceless, which he said compromises their civil rights such as a fair trial.

Ali said the country's military spy agency picked up a former classmate who was waiting at a bus stop in 2003. His classmate joined the hundreds of Pakistanis who never have their day in court but mysteriously disappear, kept in undisclosed prisons and tortured in "the name of fighting terror," Ali said.

"It was then when I said, 'Enough is enough."' Ali said. "I knew I had to do something."

"Speak up," Figorski said. "Demand a change."


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