By Khalid Zerai
NURISTAN -- Residents of Parun, the capital of Nuristan Province, are resisting attempts by Taliban and "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) militants to create instability in the area.
Residents of the area's six villages say they are preventing armed groups from taking control by co-operating with the government and maintaining their own security.
"Here, we co-operate with the government. We work with one hand and hold a gun in the other hand to keep security in our area," said Khan Gul, a tribal elder from Parun and construction worker building a local hospital.
"This is our obligation," he told Salaam Times. "If there is no security, there would be no government. Therefore, we are trying to [secure] our village ourselves."
In addition to protecting their own families, at times of increased threat locals organise regular patrols of the area to keep militants out.
Saeed Momand, 26, another Parun resident, said maintaining security is a way of following in the footsteps of his forefathers.
"We have been in agreement for many years that we will keep security ourselves," he told Salaam Times.
"It is true that the situation in our country is bad, but if [all Afghans] work the same as the people of Parun do [...] security would be good," he said.
Mawlawi Zeenatullah, secretary of the Nuristan Provincial Council, said the unity of residents has prevented the infiltration of militant groups.
"We have unity, the government co-operates with the people and the people also co-operate with the government, so trouble does not occur," he told Salaam Times.
The ongoing security of Parun is being recognised by visitors from other provinces and Nuristan provincial officials alike.
"Due to the security [residents provide in Parun], we come here with a few guards to assess the projects that are taking place in these remote areas," Nuristan Provincial Governor Hafiz Abdul Qayum told Salaam Times.
"Beside the police and security forces, the residents co-operate with us in keeping security," he said. "Therefore, security is good here."
With the security measures that locals have in place, Qayum said he travels to remote areas around Parun with only two or three bodyguards.
Wama District is also quite secure because residents there also provide security themselves, he said. However, the Amdesh and Barg-i-Matal districts of Nuristan are still somewhat insecure, and residents there are still trying to maintain security, he said.
Sayed Amir Khan, 35, a resident of Manogi District, Kunar Province, is temporarily living and working in Parun constructing a canal.
"We have erected our tents on bare land and we do our work," he told Salaam Times. "We stay for the night too [and] we have no fear. We live a safe life."
Ghulam Mohammad, 33, a driver and resident of Watapur District of Kunar, also noted the improved security environment in Parun.
"I have driven a car ... between Kunar and Parun for five years, and I have not faced any difficulty," he told Salaam Times, adding that sometimes he stays in Parun for a few days at a time.
"Here we feel good, there is security," he said. "Sometimes, I bring [tourists] from Kunar to see Nuristan and I tell them that there is no problem here. They come and stay for a few nights here and then they return."
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