AI

Jailed Imran Khan Seeks Votes With AI Speech, Internet Rally

 

Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan called for votes using an artificial intelligence (AI)-generated speech and a first-of-its-kind ‘internet rally’ on Sunday ahead of the country’s upcoming general election.

Khan’s address was an audio clip generated by AI from a written version he had approved from prison, officials of his Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party said.

The party is currently barred from holding public rallies, while Khan is facing a blackout from local media since his conviction on graft charges.

 

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PTI told news agency AFP that it created a “voice clone” from Khan’s existing speeches to create the recording.

The internet rally, along with Khan’s AI speech, drew more than 1.4 million views in a YouTube livestream.

The event – the first of its kind in the politics of Pakistan – also saw the attendance of tens of thousands on other social media.

“Our party is not allowed to hold public rallies,” Khan said in the speech as it played over his political photographs.

“Our people are being kidnapped and their families are being harassed,” he added urging supporters to turn out in large numbers at general elections set for February 8 next year.

 

Overcoming ‘suppression’

A political crisis has swirled around the 71-year-old cricketer-turned-politician since his ousting last year in a vote of confidence in parliament. The crackdown on his party PTI followed in May, after his supporters led an assault on military sites to protest his brief arrest at the time.

PTI social media chief Jibran Ilyas told AFP that the AI speech and internet rally dubbed ‘PTI’s first virtual powershow’ was intended to “get over the suppression.”

But despite its widespread reach, the event remained marred by internet disruptions.

Users nationwide complained of slow internet speeds and throttling, a technique telecoms regulators use to choke streaming on apps.

Prior to the event, internet monitor NetBlocks posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, that there had been “nation-scale” disruptions to social media platforms across #Pakistan.

“Metrics show major social media platforms were restricted in #Pakistan for ~7 hours on Sunday evening during an online political gathering; the incident is consistent with previous instances of internet censorship targeting opposition leader Imran Khan and his party PTI,” NetBlocks posted on Monday.

 

 

Poll transparency worry

While those disruptions have fuelled transparency concerns about the upcoming polls, Pakistan’s telecoms regulator said that overall internet accessibility appeared to be normal.

Even so, the interruptions were being investigated, it added.

Murtaza Solangi, information minister in Pakistan’s caretaker government assigned to supervise the elections which has been suspected of favouring Khan’s opponents, did not respond to a Reuters request for a comment.

Khan has been in prison since August after he was sentenced to three years for the alleged illegal selling of state gifts.

He remains embroiled in dozens of court cases, with some trials held in prison behind closed doors, which legal experts say infringes the right to fair proceedings.

Khan won the last general election in 2018, a victory his opponents say was achieved with help from the military, which often plays an outsized role in making and breaking governments in Pakistan.

Khan too blames his removal on the military, after a falling-out with generals over the appointment of the chief of Pakistan’s main spy agency.

The military, however, denies supporting or ousting him.

 

  • Reuters, with additional editing by Vishakha Saxena

 

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Vishakha Saxena

Vishakha Saxena is the Multimedia and Social Media Editor at Asia Financial. She has worked as a digital journalist since 2013, and is an experienced writer and multimedia producer. As a trader and investor, she is keenly interested in new economy, emerging markets and the intersections of finance and society. You can write to her at vishakha.saxena@asiafinancial.com

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