The Taliban swore an oath of reconciliation, vowing not to retaliate against dissidents and respecting women’s rights in a “separate” regime with Afghanistan two decades ago.
The announcement came on Tuesday night shortly after its co-founder returned to Afghanistan, citing the group’s surprise return after being ousted by the US-led invasion in 2001.
With great concern around the world over the Taliban’s poor human rights record – and thousands of Afghans still trying to flee the country – held their first press conference since Kabul.
“Everyone on the other hand has been pardoned from A to Z,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told foreign and domestic journalists, revealing his identity for the first time.
“We will not seek revenge.”
Mujahid said the new government would be “completely different” from its adoption from 1996 to 2001, which was notorious for stoning deaths, and girls were banned from school and women working with men.
“If the question is based on ideology and belief, there is no difference … but if we count on experience, maturity and understanding, there is no doubt that there are many differences,” Mujahid told reporters.
He also said they were “committed to letting women work in accordance with Islamic principles,” without elaborating.
A group spokesman in Doha, Suhail Shaheen, told UK Sky News that women would not have to wear a full burqa, but did not say which dress would be acceptable.
Despite this, Afghans and foreigners continued to flee the country, with the United States and other countries adding rescue planes from Kabul airport.
The depressing events from the airport earlier this week brought shocking images of Afghans who feared the Taliban and the declining America could not protect them.
Some photographs showed hundreds of people fleeing the U.S. Air Force plane as it crashed into the road, with others hanging from its side.
The UN Human Rights Council said on Tuesday it would hold a special session on Afghanistan next week to address “serious human rights concerns” under the Taliban.
The administration of President Joe Biden has issued a response to evading the Taliban’s promises of tolerance.
“If the Taliban say they will respect the rights of their citizens, we will seek them out to implement this declaration and implement this resolution,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.
Russia and China were quick to signal their willingness to work with the Taliban.
Russia said Tuesday that the initial Taliban insurrection was a “good sign” and that the militants were acting “in a civilized way”.
Return to victory
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, co-founder and deputy leader of the Taliban, returned to Afghanistan on Tuesday evening.
He chose to land in Afghanistan’s second-largest city, Kandahar, the spiritual headquarters and capital of the Taliban during their first term in office.
He arrived from Qatar, where he spent several months negotiating with the United States and then Afghan peace advisers.
Pictures posted by pro-Taliban media outlets showed crowds gathered near Baradar at the airport, raising their fists in the air and singing in celebration.
But for those who feared retaliation from the Taliban, the mood was the opposite.
“Sometimes I stand in front of a window and think about how I got here and how lucky I am not to be in Afghanistan now,” Mohammad Ehsan Saadat, an Afghan human rights researcher who fled his country with his family, told AFP in Canada.
In Kabul, some shops have opened and traffic is on the streets, but schools are still closed and tensions are still high.
“The fear is there,” said a store salesman who asked for anonymity after his store opened.