Imprisoned former Pakistani PM Khan uses AI to deliver election 'victory speech'

Applications of AI


Imran Khan's party on Friday used a computer-generated version of Khan's voice to deliver what it called a “victory speech” for Pakistan's jailed former prime minister.

“I congratulate you on your victory in the 2024 elections. I was sure you would all come out to vote… and everyone was surprised by the huge turnout,” Khan's AI-generated voice said.

Official results from Thursday's election showed that a group of candidates affiliated with Khan's opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party won the most seats.

A poster of Pakistan's imprisoned former prime minister Imran Khan overlooks the country's political party offices in Islamabad, Pakistan, on February 9, 2024.

A poster of Pakistan's imprisoned former prime minister Imran Khan overlooks the country's political party offices in Islamabad, Pakistan, on February 9, 2024.

The results were announced bit by bit after unusually long delays and amid allegations that they were rigged in favour of military-backed parties.

By Friday night, the Election Commission of Pakistan had released the results for 242 of the 266 seats in the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament. The results showed that PTI-backed candidates won 98 seats, more than any other party, despite being subject to a government crackdown before the election.

Candidates from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party (PML-N), led by three-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who is seen as a favourite of the powerful military, won 61 seats.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari's Pakistan People's Party came in third with 52 seats, followed by smaller regional parties.

Independent candidate Malik Tariq Awan (centre right) celebrates with his supporters after winning the parliamentary elections on February 9, 2024 in Peshawar, Pakistan.

Independent candidate Malik Tariq Awan (centre right) celebrates with his supporters after winning the parliamentary elections on February 9, 2024 in Peshawar, Pakistan.

Khan's speech was broadcast through the PTI's social media platforms because mainstream media is banned from broadcasting his name or image. The party said the text of the speech had been approved by Khan.

“According to independent sources, before the manipulation of election results began, we were leading in 150 parliamentary constituencies. And as of now, we are leading in over 170 parliamentary seats,” the 71-year-old politician claimed.

Thursday's vote took place amid a nationwide shutdown of mobile phone and internet services and sporadic outbreaks of violence, raising doubts about the credibility of an already contentious election.

Just hours before Khan's speech, Sharif gave a victory speech in his hometown of Lahore, eastern Pakistan, despite the official results showing him 30 seats behind the PTI. The speech was broadcast live on state and private television.

Sharif claimed his PML-N would “emerge as the largest party in the country” and would form a coalition government in Islamabad. He suggested that all parties needed to come together and form a government to get Pakistan out of the difficulties it was currently facing.

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (center) addresses supporters following early results of the country's parliamentary elections in Lahore, Pakistan, Feb. 9, 2024. Sharif said Friday he would seek to form a coalition government.

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (center) addresses supporters following early results of the country's parliamentary elections in Lahore, Pakistan, Feb. 9, 2024. Sharif said Friday he would seek to form a coalition government.

“PMLN leader Nawaz Sharif has declared victory, but final results have yet to be announced and so far the PTI independent candidate still has a lead,” said Michael Kugelman, director of the Wilson Center's South Asia Institute in Washington.

“The military interfered in the electoral process and now military-backed parties are conspiring to subvert the will of the people,” Kugelman wrote on X.

There is an objection to the results

Unofficial tallies published overnight by Pakistani media showed PTI-backed candidates leading in national elections, in some cases by 30,000 to 50,000 votes, based on local constituency counts, but early official results released on Friday showed the party narrowly losing or lagging in several of those elections.

The Election Commission blamed “internet problems” for delays in processing the results, while the Interior Ministry defended it, saying the outages in mobile phone and internet services on election day were “the result of precautionary measures taken to ensure complete security of the vote.”

Services resumed on Friday morning. Interior Minister Gohar Ejaz told a news conference in the Pakistani capital that he was aware that the decision would be criticised from various quarters, but that he would take this decision again if necessary.

The suspension of telephone and internet services fuelled suspicions that the Pakistani military-backed caretaker government was plotting to rig the election, primarily to prevent candidates loyal to Khan's party from gaining an advantage.

“Unfortunately, the integrity of the vote has been trampled,” Asma Shirazi, a well-known prime-time political talk show host, said in a live broadcast on the Urdu news channel Hum. “The election has become even more controversial as a candidate who won by a landslide overnight has been declared the loser.”

Pakistan's information and interior ministers told reporters on Friday that the Election Commission is the only authority with the power to address allegations of electoral fraud and insisted that “all major political parties are broadly satisfied with the election results.”

Protesters claim election fraud

Police clashed on Friday in the northwestern town of Shangla with angry PTI supporters protesting against alleged election fraud. In a statement later, the PTI said four party supporters were killed and many more were injured in the clashes.

PTI-led rallies also erupted outside election offices across Pakistan.

The European Union on Friday urged Pakistani authorities to conduct a prompt and thorough investigation into reported election irregularities.

“We deplore the lack of a level playing field due to the inability of some political actors to stand in the elections, restrictions on freedom of assembly and expression both online and offline, restrictions on access to the internet, as well as alleged serious interference in the electoral process, including the arrest of political activists,” the EU statement said.

Supporters of former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan's party blockaded roads in Peshawar, Pakistan, on February 9, 2024, in protest against delays in the announcement of parliamentary election results by the Election Commission of Pakistan.

Supporters of former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan's party blockaded roads in Peshawar, Pakistan, on February 9, 2024, in protest against delays in the announcement of parliamentary election results by the Election Commission of Pakistan.

The United States on Friday condemned restrictions on access to the internet and communications services and expressed concern about alleged interference in the electoral process.

“We now look forward to timely and complete results that reflect the will of the Pakistani people,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said. “We agree with the assessments of credible international and local election observers that the elections included unjustified restrictions on the freedoms of expression, association, and peaceful assembly.”

Pakistan has about 190 million mobile phone subscribers, of which 128 million have mobile broadband service. The outage meant many voters were unable to access the Election Commission's data system to get polling station locations and other details.

Reporters from Pakistan's major television stations said the blackout prevented them from reporting quickly on cheating and other irregularities from the scene throughout the day.



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