Pakistani Former Prime Minister Imran Khan Uses AI Version of Himself to Address Rally, Evading Gag Order

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan waves to his supporters during an anti-governme
AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary

Islamist former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, who has been jailed since August on corruption charges, used artificial intelligence (AI) software to create a “free” version of himself to address a virtual rally of his Pakistani Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Party on Sunday.

“Our party is not allowed to hold public rallies. Our people are being kidnapped, and their families are being harassed,” Khan complained in an AI-generated audio clip that was paired with an AI-generated image to make it seem as though he were speaking over a video link.

Using AI was necessary because the terms of Khan’s imprisonment forbid him from making political speeches. Khan reportedly approved the script that the computer read in his voice.

Khan, or rather the computer reading the script he approved, said he saw being in jail as an act of “worship for the true freedom of Pakistan.”

“I am ready to sacrifice my life for my country and my people,” he declared.

Khan claimed polls show 75 percent of the Pakistani people support the PTI Party, but the party is still “being kept out of the electoral process.” He promised that if he were returned to office, he would reinstate “the rule of law” and usher in such an era of prosperity that skilled Pakistanis living overseas would be inspired to return home.

“If you come out in large numbers, there is no way we can lose,” he told his supporters. Pakistan’s next general election is scheduled for February 2024.

Pakistani officials allegedly slowed or blocked internet access across the country to thwart his “virtual power show,” as the PTI Party dubbed it. The party hooted in its statement on the internet blockages:

In what was an expected move, the illegitimate, fascist regime has slowed down internet speed and disrupted social media platforms all across Pakistan prior to the PTI’s historic virtual jalsa! This is proof of the fear of the unprecedented popularity of Imran Khan’s PTI!

In Pakistan, “jalsa” is a term for political meetings or rallies. The PTI Party billed the event on Sunday as Pakistan’s first “virtual jalsa,” and it was one of the world’s first admitted uses of AI software to generate a political speech.

Khan, 71, was elected prime minister in August 2018 but removed from office by a parliamentary vote of no confidence in April 2022. He embarked on a lively political comeback tour that included massive public demonstrations, riots, an assassination attempt, a law enforcement siege at his house, and a commando squad violently taking him into custody in May 2023.

Khan was swiftly released after that arrest because the Pakistani Supreme Court did not look kindly upon the government for sending a paramilitary unit to tackle the elderly former cricket star while he was filling out paperwork in a courthouse, but he was arrested again on some of the hundred-plus charges following him around and was jailed in August 2023. Many of the court cases pending against him pertain to allegations of corruption during his time as prime minister.

The riots that broke out after Khan was arrested in May 2023 included vandalism of military property, which prompted Pakistan’s powerful military to crack down on the PTI Party. Many PTI Party members are currently jailed on riot-related charges.

Police (back) use teargas to disperse Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party activists and supporters (foreground) of former Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan during a protest against the arrest of their leader, in Islamabad on May 10, 2023. Khan will appear in a special court at the capital's police headquarters to answer graft charges on May 10, a day after his shock arrest prompted violent nationwide protests. (Photo by Aamir QURESHI / AFP) (Photo by AAMIR QURESHI/AFP via Getty Images)

Police use teargas to disperse PTI Party activists and supporters of Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan during a protest against his arrest in Islamabad on May 10, 2023. (AAMIR QURESHI/AFP via Getty Images)

Khan claims the military colluded with the United States and United Kingdom governments to orchestrate the vote of no confidence that ousted him, and he has accused Pakistan’s security services of trying to kill him. On Sunday, he referred to his ejection from office as a “regime change operation” in the AI-generated address and called the current government an “imported system.”

The Pakistani government denied tampering with the internet to suppress attendance at the PTI Party’s virtual rally, but outside network monitoring services said there was a distinct slowdown consistent with deliberate suppression on Sunday.

Pakistani political analysts told the Associated Press (AP) on Monday that Khan generated considerable “buzz” with his AI-facilitated speech, and it was an impressive demonstration of tech savvy by the Islamist populist PTI Party. 

On the other hand, only a small portion of Pakistan’s voters use social media, and political analyst Azim Chaudhry noted the PTI Party might still have violated the strict laws against convicted criminals by “directly or indirectly” addressing a rally. 


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.