Photo/Illutration Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid speaks at a news conference in front of a Taliban flag in Kabul on Aug. 17. (AP Photo)

It is difficult to put faith in the Taliban’s promise to seek reconciliation and respect human rights unless the insurgents match their words with actions.

We need to keep closely monitoring the process in which they will form a new government and reshape the nation.

On Aug. 17, the Taliban held their first news conference after seizing control of Afghanistan.

The president of the internationally recognized Afghan government has fled the country. The Taliban’s move to topple the elected government by force is unacceptable, but the international community has to recognize the reality that the Taliban will now take over leadership in governing the nation.

Naturally, the international community is looking for clues as to the Taliban’s vision for the nation’s future.

At the news conference in Kabul, the country’s capital, the Taliban spokesman appeared at pains to refurbish the group’s image and dispel the distrust they have created among people both at home and abroad.

The spokesman denied that the Taliban has any plans to carry out reprisals against people who worked for the collapsed government, saying, “We have pardoned anyone, all those who had fought against us.”

He also stressed the group’s intention to form a new regime that will “include all other sides and factions from all segments of society.”

But these pledges cannot be taken at face value given how the Taliban refused to strike a truce with the fallen government and seized the capital. They have restricted citizens’ travels and fired at protesters, causing casualties.

A key test of their commitment to the promises will be whether they will have sincere talks with former Afghan President Hamid Karzai and senior government officials who are calling for a peaceful transfer of power.

The biggest concern about Taliban rule is how the new regime will deal with the human rights of women and minority groups.

The last time the Taliban controlled the country in the 1990s, they adopted policies based on extreme interpretations of Islam. They banned idol worship and destroyed famed Buddha statutes.

They restricted women’s access to education as well as employment and other social roles. Consequently, the Taliban government was internationally criticized and recognized by only three countries including Saudi Arabia.

During the Aug. 17 news conference, the Taliban spokesman stressed that the group will be committed to the rights of women and will not discriminate against women, but only “within the framework of Sharia.”

If the Taliban decides what is acceptable and what is not acceptable under Islamic law, there will be no guarantee that women will not be suppressed as they were under the previous Taliban regime.

The Group of Seven major democracies appear to be uncertain about how they should deal with the Taliban.

Canada has made it clear it will not recognize the Taliban’s government and Britain has also shown a cautious stance. But the United States has yet to clarify its position.

The European Union has said it will have to talk with the Taliban regardless of whether it will recognize the Taliban government or not.

The leaders of the G-7 nations including Japan are scheduled to hold talks online next week. They need to send a strong message to the Taliban about their complete rejection of any form of violence and disrespect for human rights.

At the same time, the G-7 leaders need to reaffirm their determination never to abandon the Afghan people. The nations including Japan should now make all-out efforts to rescue and accept Afghan people who are fearing reprisals from the Taliban.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 20