Return to Transcripts main page
Women of Afghanistan; Interview With Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari; Interview with Bloomberg Managing Editor for Crypto Stacy-Mari Ishmael. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired May 18, 2022 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR live from Kabul in Afghanistan.
Here's what's coming up.
Afghan women and girls contending with a flow of Taliban edicts, I visit a trade school giving them a fighting chance, and I speak to the brave woman
running this resistance.
Then: She was once just four women to try negotiating peace with the Taliban before their takeover. Afghan political leader and activist Fatima
Gailani talks about recognizing the grave reality while fighting for change.
Plus: Mounting attacks in both Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan. Inside their fraud relationship with Pakistan's new foreign minister, the son of a
storied dynasty, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, fresh off his meeting with the U.S. secretary of state.
And later: Could the roller-coaster digital currency market crash the broader economy? Hari Sreenivasan talks to journalists Stacy-Marie Ishmael.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in Kabul.
Seven thousand miles separate this city from Washington, but, tonight, both capitals are reeling from a damning new report on last year's disastrous
American withdrawal. A top U.S. watchdog blames both the Trump and Biden administrations for the swift collapse of the Taliban military, or, rather,
the Afghan military.
And it saves scorn for former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, echoing a belief that we have heard ourselves hear from the Taliban, that this city
would not have fallen had he stayed, instead of fleeing. The consequences of those fateful decisions are all around us. And women and girls are
bearing the burden.
After 20 years of progress, many rights are slipping away. Secondary girls students still cannot go to public high school. Despite their fears,
they're continuing the fight right under the Taliban's nose.
And, today, I saw how the tools of resistance these days are needle and thread.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Wednesday morning in Kabul, and we're going to girls school through these plastic curtains and past prying eyes.
Yes, this fashion studio has become an alternate education facility, since the Taliban stopped girls from attending government high schools; 17-year-
old Rokhsar wanted to be a doctor. Now she's learning to be a dressmaker.
"We're feeling very bad," she tells us. "Girls are not able to go to school, staying home, doing nothing. We hope that this will change our
life, so we can be self-sufficient, have a profession, learn, earn money to support ourselves and our families."
Neda wanted to be a professional soccer player.
(on camera): You're 17. You have never known the Taliban government. Did you ever imagine that this would happen to you, that you would be prevented
from going to school?
(voice-over): "No, never. We tried our best for our future. But it's a dark one now, because we're kept away from our schools."
Nageena Hafizi started this fashion business with her sisters four years ago. Today, she's running the resistance. When the Taliban slammed the door
in their faces, she opened hers up to high school girls, aiming to have them sufficiently trained to earn a living and support themselves within
six to 12 months. She does this for 120 girls and women across three locations.
(on camera): You're helping them, but they all want to be doctors, or an athlete, or professionals. They want to go on to university. How do you
feel about them having to be embroiderers or dressmakers?
(voice-over): "This is very upsetting," says Nageena. "When someone is following their own dreams, it's very good. It's different when they're
forced into doing something else. And it's a bad feeling, because most of these girls wanted to go to university, become a doctor, a teacher, an
engineer. It's very difficult for them, and I know that they can't do any other work. So at least they can learn the dressmaking profession for their
For the record, the powerful deputy Taliban leader Sirajuddin Haqqani told me that girls public high schools would open again soon and that, of
course, women have the right to work within the Islamic framework.
But 26 years ago, I had the same conversations about the same issues when the Taliban was first in charge.
(on camera): A lot of people want to know what you're going to do about the women issue. What about women's education, girls education, women
working, widows who have no other way to support themselves?
SHER MOHAMMAD ABBAS STANIKZAI, FORMER DEPUTY TALIBAN FOREIGN MINISTER: I know that, especially in Western news media, it's the propaganda against us
that we are against women education, which is not right. It is not correct.
AMANPOUR: But the girls can't go to school. We have been to schools here that are all closed.
STANIKZAI: We have just told them that, for the time being, they should not come to office and school, so -- until the time that we can come out
with some sort of solution.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Even the youngest understand something is not right; 10-year-old Aziza (ph) complains about having to stay home all day.
"We just do housework, cleaning, baking bread and sweeping the floors," she says.
FARANAZ, CIVIL ENGINEER: I love my work. It's my right to work. And I need to work, because I got education in this country, and the government spent
money on me, and even my family. And I want to express myself to my society.
AMANPOUR: Brave then, brave now. Only now, after more than two decades of progress for their wives, their daughters and their family incomes, so many
more Afghan men support them.
Hajinor Ahma (ph) tells us not even 1 percent of Afghan people are against women working.
"We don't want our people to grow up as if we're in a jungle. We want people to have culture, knowledge. We need food and work."
Back at the design studio, these classes are not only open to high school students, but to older women who are suddenly out of work, like 30-year-old
Rabia, who's a teacher.
"We feel suffocated," she says. "Why can't we, in our own country, our own place, live freely, move freely? Wherever we go, whatever work we do, they
put barriers in our way. We can't reach our goals in life. We're always afraid, whether the previous government or the Taliban's emirate regime."
Rabia comes here to retrain and, like many of the mothers and wives, to have some kind of social life, like Norjan (ph), whose daughter, Neda,
wanted to become a soccer player.
"When I'm really upset," she tells me, "my husband says I should come here, so that at least I can meet others. My husband is so kind. We are all
AMANPOUR: And it's a sisterhood fortified by adversity.
And my next guest is a woman's right activist who concedes that now there's no Afghanistan without the Taliban and also there is no Afghanistan without
women. So, how do you walk that precarious tightrope of acceptance and resistance?
Fatima Gailani was among only a handful of women to try negotiating peace with the Taliban in Doha before they regained power. Her father had led one
of the mujahideen resistance groups against the 1979 Soviet invasion. And, tonight, she's joining me from London.
Fatima Gailani, welcome to the program.
Look, I know you're in London. You have all sorts of personal situations, and you're traveling on behalf of Afghan women, but you live here. And you
-- you have been back and forth. What do you make of what you just heard in that report and the ongoing suspension of these schools, despite what
Sirajuddin Haqqani promised me, that they would open soon?
FATIMA GAILANI, AFGHAN WOMEN'S RIGHTS ACTIVIST: Well, it is extremely important that the whole world will know that, for any Muslim, education is
not just a right. It is an obligation.
And in front of any Muslim, to put the obstacle to reach the obligations that they want is wrong. And then, on top of that, it is the right thing to
do. And this is what has been happening in Afghanistan for a long, long time.
So, it is also very important that we know that we have to put a clear mark and difference between what is in the culture, wrong cultures of old
Afghanistan, and also what is and obligations and duties in Islam.
So, Islam and some tradition, when they mixes -- when they mix to each other, it could bring a very wrong result. Women should go to school. Men
should go to school. And this is absolutely the only thing I can say, that it is a must.
AMANPOUR: So, Fatima Gailani, you know these people. You negotiated with them in Doha. And they have claimed and others have suggested that there's
a difference between Taliban 2.0 and Taliban 1, 0 who you saw when I was talking to Mr. Stanikzai in that piece some 26 years ago, saying the same
Is there a difference in terms of desire for governance, desire to do something to make themselves more legitimate to their own people at this
GAILANI: It is extremely important that they should become a government.
When you become a government, you have to satisfy your own people. And then you have to have these international obligations. And you cannot have one
or another or none. You have to have this. And it is dangerous, not just for Taliban, it's just dangerous for the country, that if it carry on like
Today, the country is in one hand, and they have obligations. You say that we had experience of more than one year talking to each other. Never it
came in our conversation that the opening of school or women not be able to go to school or work is an issue.
We all -- always, we were under the impression that the schools will go on as always. You say that to compare the government of Taliban today and the
government of Taliban of yesterday. We compare everything to the last 20 years. They compare everything to what it was in their first round of
In their eyes, there is a difference. But, in our eye, we want what is the right thing, what is expected from them. Today, we have a unique
opportunity. For the first time after more than 42 years, the country's in one hand. If they bring the good to the country, if they will bring what
the people of Afghanistan want, they are able to do it, so there isn't any other obstacle in front of them.
But if it carry on -- carries on like that, I'm really, really scared that another conflict will emerge from somewhere and somehow.
AMANPOUR: So, Fatima Gailani, look, there seems to be a split between those who claim to be more pragmatic and more realistic here in the Kabul
area, led by the powerful Sirajuddin Haqqani, and those in Kandahar, as you mentioned, traditional, conservative, hard-line. We haven't even seen the
face of the supreme leader.
And I'm trying to understand what you think they get from this kind of oppression of women. I mean, is it like, as the Americans would say,
throwing red meat at the base?
GAILANI: Well, what I am expecting, even from the most radical of the Taliban, that do what is right -- was right, has always been right in
Khadija was the first woman in Islam who was a merchant. Our prophet, peace be upon him, was working for her. And then we have most of the tradition of
the prophet, the -- from a woman, Aisha, who actually transferred what was said by prophet, peace be upon him, to us.
And then we had women in Islam, yes, at the time of -- at the very beginning, that they were involved in politics, they were involved at work,
they were involved in decision-maker, and they were -- they were involved in decision-makers.
Remember when, at the time of Khalifa Umar, when they were deciding on the holidays of the soldiers, whom they consulted with. With women. So why
Afghanistan should be different? That's what I'm saying, that the royal traditions which are against Islam should be thrown away. And let's
concentrate on what is right for the people of Afghanistan.
AMANPOUR: So let's just bring up a few things.
Again, on the one hand, you hear Sirajuddin Haqqani say what he said to me, and publicly, on the record. He's the most powerful. He's the deputy
Taliban leader. And on the record, he said that they must go to school, it will happen soon and all the rest of it.
But then there are these edicts. There are these posters that are slapped up on walls at the so-called Ministry of Prevention of Vice and Promotion
of Virtue, which basically took the place of the woman's ministry, with the long coverings and the hijabs.
Then we have this BBC video where they found this minister. And this is what he said about a face covering. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It is not the decree of the ministry. It is the decree of God. The real cause of moral corruption is
the face. If the face is not covered, then what is the point of hijab?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: I mean, you know...
AMANPOUR: And, on the other hand, Haqqani says to me, it's advice. It's not mandatory.
And we're not seeing that much enforcement. Now, it may be different in other parts of the country, but we're not seeing a huge amount of
enforcement, if at all, here. So how does one thread this needle? How do you deal?
GAILANI: It is very important that it is not enforcement.
And this person who had given his view, lots of people had this view even at the time of President Karzai and President Ghani. This is an option.
But my question is that when I go for Hajj, the most important place for a Muslim, am I allowed to cover my face? No, I'm not. And then we must
differentiate between the rules and regulations which has come for the wives of prophet and for ordinary women. Ordinary women, their hijab is
And covering the face, I -- the same way that I tell people that you should be allowed, women should be allowed to wear whatever they like, if a woman
herself wants to cover her face, then we should not prevent her from doing it. But to get to have a proper hijab, this is what it is when you pray.
Cover your head. Have decent clothes.
When you go to Hajj, you cannot cover your face. You're not allowed to cover your face. So let's -- I want to believe of what Mr. Haqqani said.
And I am hoping and I'm counting on that, that will prevail.
AMANPOUR: Do you think you have -- a bit windy here, and this is the perils of the veil. It'll cover your face whether you like it or not.
Do you think, if you come back, when you come back, that you have an opportunity to actually engage with them? After all, you sat around a table
in Doha? Will you be able to engage? And how will you navigate politically this fraught situation for women right now, who, whether it's enforced or
not, feel the chilling effect of all these edicts, all these sayings, that have been flooding -- flooding the airwaves, so to speak?
GAILANI: Well, I -- my hope is that, when I am face to face, or I'm on television, or I'm writing, or I'm speaking on radio, what I'm saying is
that Islam is religion of peace.
And we should not scare people. I mean, it is very wrong to scare people. If people want to do -- to cover the -- if a woman want to cover her face,
let her cover her face. But let's not make it as a way that this is the only way. It is not.
And that's why in Doha, when we were talking, none of this came up. Actually, it was much more open atmosphere. And I'm really, really sorry
that it did collapse and we couldn't come to an understanding and sign and seal the whole thing.
What I'm saying is that what is -- Afghanistan is not the only Muslim country in the world. It is one of the Muslim countries in the world. Why
should we be different from other Muslim countries? We cannot claim that we are better than other Muslims. We are human beings. And we are all good.
AMANPOUR: Fatima, let me ask you about this report that's come out, because it goes to the heart of what's happening right now, a collapse of
the system on August 15, when everybody suddenly fled, I mean, the president, Ashraf Ghani, followed shortly by the Americans and NATO.
And, I mean, there was rubble here, rubble over any kind of order. And you can see it for yourselves. And we're seeing it, and the people are paying
for it. What do you make of the special independent report that's just come out from the United States, blaming the United States, both the Trump and
the Biden administrations, for this -- first of all, for saying they were going to withdraw with no conditions, and then doing it, and then Ashraf
Ghani leaving, and that causing, according to many who the report quotes, essentially the collapse?
How do you assess that?
GAILANI: Well, it was chain of bad things which happened one after another.
On your own television, on CNN, I said it very openly that to have an unconditional withdrawal is reckless, it is immoral, and it is a really bad
thing to do. It is extremely important that we should have an understanding and peace deal and a peaceful end for Afghanistan, and a change of power
should have been there.
So, political negotiation should have matured in Doha. And then, even after -- after the fall of -- after everything was falling and, left and right,
the countries were falling, then, again, it was not supposed to be like that.
The president -- former President Ghani when he was supposed to stay in Kabul, and leaders, political leaders, including Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, ex-
President Karzai, and a group of dignitaries and important politicians were supposed to come in Doha, and some understanding was supposed to be signed.
And then we should have -- all the country should have said goodbye to Mr. Ghani, and a very smooth transition of power. We knew that the government
cannot stay. But he fled.
AMANPOUR: And, as you know, they say also the Afghan military basically had nothing to fight for once America said it was going to pull out,
because it was so very dependent on the United States.
I just want to ask you to go back more than 20 years, because you were there when the Taliban was kicked out and al Qaeda was kicked out after
9/11 by the international intervention, which began as sort of a democratic process here.
You say that something went wrong from the very start, that, even from the very start back in 2001 and the first Constitution, Taliban members should
have been included. I mean, that sounds like anathema. What do you mean?
When -- look, when we say that they were kicked out, how could you kick out Afghans out of Afghanistan? How could Afghans that they have tribe, and
they are the native people of Afghanistan -- you can't kick them out. They were out of the political scene.
So, in order to bring them in the peace agreement, it was very important that we should have had them. And then, even later, when the Constitution
was formed, I had every hope that the first thing which would happen in Afghanistan, not just by us Afghans, but the whole of international
community, that they will all focus on peace.
And then, even later, when it was focused, I don't think it was all- hearted. I don't think it was really, they meant it. Had they meant it, they would have been very clear to President Ghani that we are leaving, and
we have to have a peace settlement before we go. It should have been very clear.
And then, of course, when we gave ammunition or reason to the Taliban, they knew that the government will collapse, the army will collapse. So they
were also lingering. But we should have taken it seriously.
Look, when the foreign minister, Pompeo, told President Ghani and the two presidents told him that we are leaving, so the whole of his efforts should
have been a successful peace negotiations and a settlement out of that negotiation. It should have been very, very important.
I think that this election, the last election he had, was wrong, because that was the time that he should have unified the country. He made the
country go astray. And everyone thought, I don't belong to this government. I just don't belong to this government.
AMANPOUR: Fatima Gailani, thank you so much.
And now you know there's no notion of any further elections, at least according to Sirajuddin Haqqani. We will see how that develops as well.
Thank you so much for joining us with that incredible insight and experience.
Now, one country keeping a close eye on what happens here is, of course, Pakistan. The two nations share far more than a border. Just today, the
Afghan government brokered a cease-fire between its counterpart in Islamabad and the Pakistani Taliban. That group has recently staged a
number of attacks in Pakistan that threaten to destabilize this entire region.
Pakistan's new foreign minister is Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. His family has a distinguished and even tragic history of leadership there. And he joins me
from New York, where he's just met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Foreign Minister Bhutto Zardari, welcome to the program. Thanks for thanks for joining us.
BILAWAL BHUTTO ZARDARI, PAKISTANI FOREIGN MINISTER: Thank you for having me.
AMANPOUR: So can I just start by asking you?
I know you're in New York. How significant is it for you that this government, the Taliban government, seems to have said that it's brokered a
cease-fire between -- between those two warring sides?
Do you accept that? Is that correct?
BHUTTO ZARDARI: As far as the terrorist issues are concern, Pakistan has been worried about the increase in terrorist activity.
And we are looking to the regime in Afghanistan to play their role in discouraging an increase of terrorist activity. And this is indeed an
encouraging sign. We continue to not only monitor this situation, but work on our side to ensure that we can tackle the threat of terrorism and hope
that the regime in Afghanistan lives up to their international commitment to not allow their soil to be used for terrorism.
AMANPOUR: Foreign Minister, you're at the United Nations. The U.N. has a whole raft of sanctions against the Taliban. I don't believe any country,
even yours, has recognized this new government. Correct me if I'm wrong.
What will it take for your country, let's say, to accept the government here in Kabul?
BHUTTO ZARDARI: As far as recognition is concerned, we are working with the international community, and will take those decisions in step, in line
with the international community.
At the same time, we continue to advocate for engagement, and particularly in light of the humanitarian crisis developing in Afghanistan. We believe
it is not good for the people of Afghanistan and it's not good for the region, or, indeed, the international community, if 95 percent of the
people of Afghanistan descend into poverty.
It would not be a good message for the international community to send or indeed for us in Pakistan to send to the people of Afghanistan, if they get
the impression that we're abandoning them in this difficult time, that we're emphasizing increased humanitarian efforts, and also underscoring the
importance of ensuring that there isn't a complete collapse of the Afghan economy.
Of course, that too would have disastrous implications for the people of Afghanistan. Simultaneously, we in the international community are
emphasizing the importance to the new regime in Afghanistan that they live up to international commitments, be it vis-a-vis terrorism or, more
specifically, their commitments to women's education and the education of girls in Afghanistan.
And we feel, if they live up to international commitments, it would be easier for us and others to fight the case for increased support for
humanitarian efforts and a stabilization of the Afghan economy.
AMANPOUR: You know, you are obviously a Muslim country. I think the world's first Islamic republic was Pakistan.
You have a -- well, historically, a lot of influence on the Taliban. You just heard Fatima Gailani, former M.P. and women's rights activist, peace
negotiator. She said that countries such as yours and other Muslim nations also need to put their weight in with the Taliban.
Do you have any notions of perhaps you, your government trying to persuade them, coming here, talking to them, taking them around, showing them what a
proper Muslim country -- well, Muslim countries can do to give some kind of rights to women?
BHUTTO ZARDARI: So, as far as our efforts are concerned, I'd like to repeat that it is very important to emphasize the humanitarian crisis
developing in Afghanistan and all the steps that we can take to try and avert that.
I appreciate the M.P. who spoke before me. She has been a very brave contributor to her own country.
And, as far as women's rights are concerned, as far as the right to women educations are concerned, she is absolutely right. We don't see this, I
don't see this as an issue of the West. I see the women's rights or women's rights to education as rights granted to us from Islam.
The Koran's -- the first word in the Koran is iqra, to read. It doesn't say only men read. We are all meant to pursue a path to education.
And, indeed, through -- in our private interactions, and on a public level, we will be emphasizing the importance to ensure a right to access to
education, not only because it is a commitment between the Taliban government and the international community, but, also, these are rights
guaranteed to women in Islam.
Pakistan is the country in the Muslim world which saw the first female prime minister elected, Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. She was elected
the first time, the second time, and if she was not assassinated, she would have been elected a third time.
These are achievements within the Islamic world. So, the Islamic world will be working together to help relieve and alleviate the humanitarian crisis.
To insist that the economic collapse of Afghanistan is a disaster not only for Afghanistan but for the region. But simultaneously, we'll be
emphasizing that the Taliban keep their international commitments and we ensure rights to the women of Afghanistan.
AMANPOUR: Foreign Minister, you mention your mother, the late Benazir Bhutto who was tragically assassinated. You know, she actually, in the
'90s, when she was prime minister, and I'm just going to make sure I get this right because I remember it, publicly supported the Taliban. This was
all part of this endless Pakistani-Indian political standoff. And your former prime minister, Imran Khan, after the fall of Kabul, as the Taliban
call it the liberation of Kabul, he actually said the same thing. He welcomed the Taliban takeover saying, that the chains of slavery for
Afghanistan had been broken. I -- you know, the United States believes --
ZARDARI: Thank you for your question --
AMANPOUR: -- that your country -- yes, has played a very dangerous role in supporting the Taliban over the decades.
ZARDARI: Since you've raised that, I'd like the opportunity to engage with this question properly. I thank you for it. As far as my mother's words are
concerned, I think that they are taken out of context and it's quite unfair to say that. Given she was assassinated by extremist forces in Pakistan
while fighting the case against Islamic extremism and terrorism, both in our country and in Afghanistan, and across the world.
As far as the recognition of the Taliban government in the 1990s, it is indeed true that when my mother became prime minister, she did not reverse
the decision of the government preceding hers to recognize that. To recognize the Taliban government at the time. Pakistan has consistently had
an engagement with Afghanistan no matter who has been in power. And absolutely, we have had disagreements about the way this conflict has
progressed and developed.
We have always been advocates of the fact that alongside action against terrorist activity. Ultimately, the resolution of the dispute in
Afghanistan was dialogued and diplomacy. And ultimately, despite Pakistan being on the receiving end of criticism for maintaining and sustaining this
position, the International Community ultimately went down that route when they're resolving the conflict and the issues in Afghanistan.
We now want to look at the future and the present situation and the future rather than going into the past. Pakistan is neighbor with Afghanistan. We
can't change our neighbors. We have to understand that. And the develops in Afghanistan have a direct impact on the lives of the people of Pakistan.
There's a lot of blame to go around about how this situation developed. If we focus on that, I think it hampers our ability to deal with the crisis at
hand. We must prioritize, leaving the humanitarian crisis, ensuring that there's not a total economic collapse in Afghanistan, and holding the
Taliban regime to the international commitment.
And I particularly want to just mention here, that it was Pakistan or anybody else, but the United States who had direct communication and
dialogue with the Taliban regime before their takeover of Kabul. And there is a direct agreement between the United States and this regime. So, if we
get into pedantic about who recognized who when, that complicates the issue. It suffices to say that we all believe, Pakistan believes, and
International Community believes they will not serve any of our interests if we abandon the people of Afghanistan once again.
AMANPOUR: Once again, indeed. Can I just ask you -- because we did mention it and it is historically so interesting and relevant, you know, you are
Benazir Bhutto's son. You are Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's grandson. Both of them were tragically killed by extremists and fundamentalists. Your grandfather
was executed. Your mother, as we've said, was assassinated. And you know, we offer our condolences.
I want to ask you as a new politician and a new leader in this Pakistani government now, how does that inform how you will be, how you will think,
how you will act about this terrible crisis of extremism, fundamentalism that seems to be growing around the world?
ZARDARI: You know, thank you. And actually, you noted so correctly because it does hit close to home. My grandfather, Shahid Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was
assassinated by the dictator of the day who pushed in Islamization policy within and without Pakistan. The Frankenstein monsters that were created
are the result of that regime at the very forces that my mother battled against her entire political life and ultimately was assassinated at the
hands of similar extremist elements and terrorist groups.
Now, within the Pakistani context, this definitely informs my outlook, not only domestically and internationally. And while dealing with the
realities, the ground realities of the situations in and around us, combatting extremism, combatting terrorism. Spreading the peaceful,
progressive message of Islam. Advocating for human rights, for women's rights, for democracy are incredibly important to myself and my party and
from the basis of our manifesto. And we will continue to do that -- do so in whatever capacity we find ourselves in.
At the moment, there's a unity government in Pakistan where all political parties have come together to push electoral and democratic reforms. And
despite our diverse opinions, outlooks, and manifestos in the larger national interest we have come together to pull our country out of a
multitude of crises. Including a threat to our democracy, our economy, and obviously, the threat of extremism and terrorism.
AMANPOUR: Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, thank you very much for joining us.
ZARDARI: Thank you. It's such a pleasure speaking to you.
AMANPOUR: And next, we are going to turn to our colleague Hari Sreenivasan who's going to be having a very, very interesting conversation on the
perils of what's going on in the Bitcoin realm. Imagine that. It's relevant because the international economy, as we know, is having and taking such a
dive that this, apparently, to Hari's guest is very, very relevant. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christiane, thanks. Stacy-Mari Ishmael, thanks so much for joining us. First, our audience is
mixed. They might not own crypto. They probably have seen a Super Bowl ad that has something to do with cryptocurrencies and Bitcoin. But why should
we be paying attention to this market? And what's been happening recently?
STACY-MARI ISHMAEL, MANAGING EDITOR FOR CRYPTO, BLOOMBERG: Sure. Two big questions. I'd -- I'll answer the why we should be paying attention first.
I think the main thing is you mentioned the Super Bowl. There's definitely been a mainstreaming of this asset class. Folks may, you know, they've
certainly heard of Bitcoin, they might have heard that people have spent $500,000 buying a so-called nonrefundable token that's a picture of a
So, I think there's, like, a more cultural awareness of this as a phenomenon. But more consequentially, it's a phenomenon that is starting to
have impacts on what you might consider to be, like, elements of the other financial markets, right. So, what is happening to crypto markets if the
price of Bitcoin is really falling dramatically? We're starting to see that have knock-on effects with broader equity markets and folks might care more
about what happens to the Dow than they do what happens to Bitcoin.
But we're certainly starting to see some correlation between those two things. And as this market does get more sophisticated, and as more people
are interested, you have large entities like Fidelity saying things like, hey, if you want, you can have Bitcoin in your 401k. So, you know, it's
certainly a helpful thing to understand as we move in this direction.
SREENIVASAN: Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, in general, have been incredibly volatile over time --
SREENIVASAN: -- when you look back at these massive swings. Was there something different about what happened last week?
ISHMAEL: So, what happened last week is I think a classic example of math gone wrong. There was a specific kind of token called -- the complicated
name, algorithmic stablecoin. But all that means was -- it was that a coin, a token that was really held up by a bunch of programs and formulae, right.
So, like, some very smart developers wrote some programs to say, if testing happens, buy, if this other thing happens, sell. And what went wrong is
that the ability of those programs to work, given other market conditions really broke down.
And when that broke -- when that all broke down, other parts of the market got, you know, spooked, right. People were like, oh, why is this bad thing
happening? We're also going to sell over here. And that triggered a real sell-off in what you could consider to be completely unrelated on other
parts of the market. Because this thing that was perceived as, you know, relatively stable, relatively free or, I would say had less risk. that was
certainly the perception that some folks had turned out to be neither stable or safe. And that had a real impact on how folks felt about crypto
SREENIVASAN: So, these coins or the one coins that -- in question, it was supposed to be what? Connected to the U.S. dollar? Meaning it was supposed
to -- it's not supposed to go up and down?
ISHMAEL: It's not supposed up and down. The idea is that it should always trade at about $1, right. And because it's - -and that's where the name
stablecoin comes from. It's like -- unlike other parts of the market where there's volatility, this thing is always going to be between 99 cents and
$1. And then that dramatically did not happen. And it went way below, you know, into sort of the 60s, and then the 40s, and then the tens of cents.
SREENIVASAN: And I want to make sure that our audience recognizes this, that there isn't sort of one, homogeneous idea, company --
SREENIVASAN: -- stock, coin, right. It is an entire marketplace. And -- so, there's a lot of terms that I think people get confused by. There's
NFT, non-fungible token, there's cryptocurrency like Bitcoin and Ethereum. And you've got a whole team of people at Bloomberg that are covering this.
I mean, as you see where this is going, how much confidence is there in this becoming and staying real?
ISHMAEL: That is the trillion-dollar question. I think the way that we approach this on my team is we look at a couple of things. What is -- what
are having effects on either, you know, the so-called real economy or other financial markets? Like, are there elements of crypto, and as you say, it's
a lot of different things that make up this market, but are there elements of crypto that are potentially you know, here for the long term, right?
So, the idea of being able to have contracts that are entirely through software and that allow somebody no matter where they are to get a real-
time record of what's happening. You know, that's like basically a blockchain. And that has very interesting implications for everybody who,
you know, people are looking at this in the context of audit trails or compliance or even just shipping records.
So, you know, that has nothing to do with Bitcoin. Like, you don't need Bitcoin to have a solution like that. And so, we're really paying attention
to that as the first thing. And then I think the second thing is, you know, the audience of Bloomberg is like very sophisticated financial investors
who are trading tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars and billions of dollars. But even they are sometimes, like, what is going on here?
And so, you know, I do want to give the -- just the note that this is a very complicated set of different asset classs. And that folks who are
tremendously sophisticated, who are used to looking at spreadsheets of numbers and calculating risks. And, you know, like making big positions,
and things are sometimes baffled by the dynamics because, as you said earlier, there are really still elements of this that are extremely
unpredictable even for someone who otherwise really knows what they're doing.
SREENIVASAN: And I wonder about kind of the pluses and minuses of who is getting into this space. Like if you, right now, for example, are speaking
to a bunch of well-heeled investors, who have access to tons of information, and who can pay for subscription services in every kind of
edge possible. Versus one of the things that have lured people into these markets is the fact that they maybe didn't have to have that. That there
was a way for them to cut out the middleman, so to speak, and go ahead directly to the source. So, it also encouraged people of a younger
generation, and sometimes people who weren't traditional investors, to climb into this pool. I mean, this is a hard lesson to learn if you've lost
your shirt, so to speak, in over the past couple of weeks, over the past couple of years. But I also wonder about, you know, is -- will this have a
chilling effect on who becomes an investor and entrepreneur in the space especially women and people of color?
ISHMAEL: Yes, I mean it's -- I feel like everything I tell you is the flip side (INAUDIBLE). But it's true. Crypto is very complicated. So, you know,
there is a notion that it is an asset class that enables financial inclusions. For exactly the reasons that you're describing, right. You
don't have to be someone who is historically wealthy or has a broker on speed dial or has a personal financial adviser. You really have the ability
to -- as a person with $10 or $5, you know, start dabbling in crypto.
The downside is you don't have a financial adviser to say, hey, maybe you can't afford to lose any more money and you should, you know, kind of stop
trading or stop speculating. So, there is this and I think that is one of the reasons that questions around consumer protection are so important,
right. Because for every story that you hear about a person who, you know, turned $100 worth of Bitcoin into $1 million, like, we're seeing stories of
people who turned $100,000 into $10. And that's, you know, that's something that can happen very, very quickly.
SREENIVASAN: So, there are proponents of cryptocurrency for all sorts of reasons and there's also detractors. I mean, this last week gave the
detractors a moment to crow and say, hey, look. I told you so. This isn't going to work. But there's also people doubling down right now saying,
guess what's, we've got things on sale, and let's go ahead and pick up cryptocurrency's while they're less expensive.
ISHMAEL: That's absolutely true. And I don't think it's a dynamic that we only see in crypto. I think, you know if we think back a just a couple of
years during the height of the pandemic when meme coin -- meme stocks were all the rage. And people were like, we think we should buy AMC or Hertz or
GameStop or whatever those things were. And anybody who says we shouldn't, like, they don't know what they're talking about. Same energy in crypto a
lot of the time.
And frankly, with institutional investors, if you look at the broader stock market, if you look at something like the really big tech stocks like the
Apples and the Metas and the -- they're also having a tough time. And so, I don't think that it's necessarily -- while I would say there is an inherent
belief in crypto that everything will go up all the time, and that a dip is merely a detour from that direction of up. It's all markets right now that
we cover institutionally are really seeing kind of these similar types of sell-off and volatility.
SREENIVASAN: You know, these companies in the cryptocurrency space are literally buying the naming rights to stadiums right now.
SREENIVASAN: I mean, that's not small amounts of money. And here we have this, I guess, asset class that's emerging as a power player, or is it just
really great marketing and lots of money in the sort of, hype phase?
ISHMAEL: I think we are somewhere in the middle of those two things, you know. There's an analogy that is increasingly popular that people compare
crypto to the dot-com boom and bust. And coming out of that, you know, a couple of decades ago at this point, we both had, you know, famous
companies like pets.com which does not -- no longer exist. But you also had Amazon.
And I think where we are with crypto is we don't know who's going to be the pets.com and who's going to be the Amazon. And some of these companies may
well stick around, may well in 20, 25, 30 years be like the behemoths of the kinds of banks and entire companies that we have now and some of them
may not. But it's very hard to tell. And I think the point you're making there about these naming rights, this marketing, giving people an
impression that it's more stable than it is, is a fair one.
And it's certainly something that regulators are kind of paying attention to in terms of whether people are being led to believe that there is more
sort of stability in this asset class because they see these billboards and they see these company names than there might actually be.
SREENIVASAN: So, let's talk a bit about the regulation here. I mean, what steps has the U.S. government already taken? What are they planning?
ISHMAEL: I wish we could tell you what they are planning because they haven't told us yet. However, we do know that a couple of months ago, the
Biden White House issued an executive order directing pretty much every federal agency that you could imagine to study cryptocurrency in some form.
To be like, hey, everyone get together. Put your heads together. Figure out what the next steps here are and report back.
And you know, we can rag on people and be like, they're always studying something. But that is a very important point because it is a clear
directive that came with headlines that said, you need to go off, you know, figure out what is happening. How does it affect your corner of the world
and come back with recommendations for what we should do next? So, we're absolutely paying attention to when those are going to come back.
In the meantime, Gary Gensler, you know, sort of the chairman of the SEC, has taken a couple of steps that, you know, critics like to describe as
regulation through litigation. So, if they see someone breaking an existing rule, right, like you are not allowed to advertise this thing when it's
actually this thing, or you are misleading investors. You know, they've come down with some pretty heavy fines. We're talking like up to $100
million that we've seen so far to try and signal to the market that, hey, we're paying attention and we're not going to stand for these certain kinds
of things in the absence of a more formal regulatory framework.
SREENIVASAN: Speaking of that. What -- every market has speculative plays. There is -- there are stocks today on the market that are penny stocks that
you can bet on or not. And in the crypto world, we also seem to have a little bit of a -- a little bit more of a Wild West environment.
In this kind of new frontier, there's a lot more speculation and there's also a lot more people, kind of, losing their shirts. I mean, who protects
these people or is there any agency that they can go to and say, I think I just got scammed?
ISHMAEL: Currently, no and that's a big part of the problem. I think the absence of consumer protection is -- it really complicates the scenario,
you know. If you have your money in a bank and that bank goes under, there are different kinds of insurance that can protect you. If you put your life
savings into a speculative coin and the developers of that coin disappear or that coin, as we saw last week, crashes effectively to zero, there's
really nobody that you can call to say, hey, I have just lost everything.
And I think one of the things that happened last week, as more people started to realize the downsides of an effectively decentralized and
deregulated asset class, right? Like, those two words, decentralization and deregulation are often held up as positives. Like, we don't want to be
operating within the confines of a particular government. We don't want to have a central bank that's, you know, setting policy for how these things
should work. The flip side is, when there's a crisis or an emergency of some kind, you also lack those sorts of backstops that you would get if you
were dealing with a more traditional asset class.
SREENIVASAN: So, is there any kind of legislation or any kind of investigations that are kind of coming down the pike in the United States?
ISHMAEL: Well, the U.S. is in a very interesting period politically because we're starting, you know, we're heading into the midterms. And
various candidates on either side of the aisle, both Democrat and Republican, have either come down as like, I am your crypto candidate or I
am your regulate crypto out of existence candidate. And I think the fact that we're starting to see these polarized positions does suggest that at
least, you know, the next wave of legislators who, you know, will be elected in are going to come in with ideas on what should be happening. And
that's certainly going to inform the conversation.
SREENIVASAN: And is there -- I mean, this is on both parties right?
ISHMAEL: Both parties.
SREENIVASAN: I mean, there are Republicans and Democrats who are pro and anti-crypto.
ISHMAEL: Absolutely. It's much more bipartisan than folks might expect. There are some notable, you know like Elizabeth Warren is very strongly in
the, I am deeply unconvinced that crypto is a good idea camp. And then you have, you know, Senator Lummis, for example, who is much more on the
Bitcoin for everyone, there's strong arguments here. But what we find is that sort of a cross different States, different legislations, different
levels of government, it's not such a black and white picture.
SREENIVASAN: Is there something that's happening to the architecture of how cryptocurrency's work that will make it easier for people not just to
understand but to transact with it?
ISHMAEL: Well, I think it'll be easier to transact but not necessarily easier to understand, right. So, you know, you -- first, you mentioned
stablecoins. And part of the challenge from last week is there's a couple of different kinds, right There's like the math-based ones that we talked
about which are extremely complicated and, you know, require, you know, probably a Ph.D. to fully understand how they work. And then you have, what
are considered conventional stablecoins which are like, hey, we say this is worth $1 and the way that we'll prove that to you is we'll buy $1 worth of
U.S. Treasuries or U.S. commercial paper or even just U.S. dollars and something else that is a one-to-one backing.
So, there are elements of crypto that are more straightforward. To your point about the architecture, I think we're starting to see a real
interesting period in terms of folks are looking at what is the problem I'm trying to solve with this blockchain or what is the problem I'm trying to
solve with this particular crypto? And how do we architect it for that? Whereas, you know, for the past 13 years there's been, here is a solution.
Find a problem for this solution. And that's been hard because it's really hard to retrofit some of the problems we had in 2022 onto what exists right
SREENIVASAN: Stacy-Marie Ishmael, managing editor of the crypto desk at Bloomberg. Thanks so much for joining us.
ISHMAEL: Thank you for having me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, back to the beginning. Earlier we brought you some of the dashed dreams of Afghan girls, including, Neda Nazari (ph),
who wanted to be a professional soccer player. And today, the United States Women's Soccer Team, an inspiration to many young athletes all over the
world, finally secured equal pay. This historic agreement includes an even split of World Cup prize money and that was the largest pay disparity and
considered the greatest obstacle to achieving equal pay. The U.S. women's team continues to pave the way forward for female sports so that girls can
make the game they love their longtime profession.
And tomorrow, we have more of our reporting, of course, on the situation here in Afghanistan. And tune in also for my interview with the Special
Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, John Sopko. We mentioned his report which talks all about last year's disastrous American withdrawal
from this country.
And we will get into the nitty-gritty of all of that scathing assessment with him. It's important to know what happened so that it is not repeated.
Thanks for watching and goodbye from Kabul.