AI clone let Imran Khan campaign despite Pakistani prison bars

Imran Khan, former Prime Minister of Pakistan, utilized artificial intelligence (AI) to hold a ‘virtual rally’ from behind bars. Khan has been imprisoned since August on charges of leaking classified documents, a claim he denies. The technologies utilized by Khan’s PTI party included a ‘voice clone’ generated with AI, which allowed Khan’s written words to be converted into speech mimicking his personal style. Despite internet disruptions that some have associated with attempts to suppress Khan’s voice, the virtual rally was viewed by over 4.5 million people across different social media platforms.

  • AI was utilized to create an audio message from imprisoned former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, in which a ‘voice clone’ read a script prepared by Khan.
  • The message was broadcast as part of a ‘virtual rally’ via social media, drawing an audience of over 4.5 million.
  • PTI, Khan’s political party, originally pioneered the use of social media in Pakistani politics, particularly in reaching younger demographics.
  • The ability of AI to impersonate leaders has often been seen as a potential tool for disinformation, but its use in Khan’s case may showcase how it can also be used to circumvent state suppression.

Imran Khan, once a globally renowned cricket star and highly popular figure in Pakistan, has been a thorn in the side of the country’s military establishment since he fell out with top-ranking officials. Following Khan’s arrest in May 2023, which sparked riots among his supporters, he was banned from broadcasting and his political party faced intense scrutiny and suppression. Despite these obstacles, Khan’s PTI party continues to innovate politically, leveraging technology and AI to communicate with their audience.

While some have raised concerns about the authenticity and overall effectiveness of the AI-mediated message, others have praised the PTI’s use of novel tech tools. In a context where many political events are carried out virtually due to safety considerations or freedom restrictions, this juxtaposition of opinions throws a spotlight on the potential benefits, and drawbacks, of adopting AI techniques in politics. As political parties worldwide continue to explore new ways of connecting with their followers, the case of Imran Khan serves as a significant example of the role that emerging technologies can play in modern politics.

As of now, Khan remains the figurehead of the PTI party even while he is incarcerated. The official confirmation from Pakistan’s election commission shows that elections will be held on 8 February. With this, it remains to be seen how further adoption of AI and social media strategies will influence the forthcoming political events in Pakistan.