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Jailed Ex-Pakistan PM Khan Uses AI to Deliver Election 'Victory Speech'

Jailed Ex-Pakistan PM Khan Uses AI to Deliver Election 'Victory Speech'
ISLAMABAD/LAHORE, PAKISTAN — The party of Imran Khan delivered what it said was a "victory speech" by Pakistan's imprisoned former prime minister Friday, using a computer-generated voice to simulate that of Khan.   "I congratulate you all for your election 2024 victory. I had full confidence that you would all come out to vote … and your massive turnout has stunned everybody," Khan's AI-generated voice said.  Official results from Thursday's elections showed that a group of candidates affiliated with Khan's opposition, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, or PTI, claimed the largest number of parliamentary seats.  The results trickled in after an unusually long delay and amid allegations that they are being manipulated to favor military-backed parties.  By Friday night, the Election Commission of Pakistan had released the results for 242 of the 266 National Assembly, or lower house of parliament, seats up for grabs. These results showed that PTI-backed candidates had won 98 seats, more than any other party, despite being targeted by a state crackdown before the election.     Candidates of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, or PML-N, led by three-time former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, had won 61 seats. Sharif is viewed as the powerful military's favorite.     The Pakistan Peoples Party, headed by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, was third with 52 seats, while smaller regional parties trailed.  Khan's speech was broadcast through the PTI social media platforms because mainstream media is banned from airing his name or images. His party said the text had been approved by Khan.     "According to independent sources, we were ahead in 150 National Assembly constituencies before manipulation of results began. And, at this time, we are ahead in more than 170 National Assembly seats," the 71-year-old politician claimed.      Thursday's vote occurred amid a nationwide suspension of mobile phone and internet services and sporadic violence, fueling doubts about the credibility of an already controversial election.     Just hours before Khan spoke, Sharif made his own victory speech despite being 30 seats behind PTI on the official results. His remarks, made in his native eastern city of Lahore, were broadcast live on state and private TV stations.     He claimed that his PML-N "has emerged as the largest party" in the country and would form a coalition government in Islamabad. Sharif suggested that all political parties should come together and form a government to navigate Pakistan out of the difficulties it is currently facing.  "PMLN leader Nawaz Sharif has declared victory. But final results haven't been announced, and results so far show PTI independents still in the lead," said Michael Kugelman, director of the South Asia Institute at the Wilson Center in Washington.     "The army, with its intervention in the electoral process, and now its preferred party have conspired to subvert the public will," Kugelman wrote on X. Tallies disputed  Based on local constituency counts, unofficial overnight tallies from Pakistani media outlets showed PTI-backed candidates leading races nationwide, in some cases by as much as 30,000 to 50,000 votes. However, early official results released on Friday showed the party had narrowly lost or was trailing in some of those races.  The election commission blamed the delay in processing the results on an "internet issue," while the Interior Ministry defended the election day suspension of mobile phone and internet services as "a result of preventive measures taken to ensure foolproof security" of the vote.  The services were reinstated Friday morning. "We knew there would be noise from every side over the decision, but I would take this decision again if I had to," Interior Minister Gohar Ejaz told a news conference in the Pakistani capital.  The suspension of phone and internet services sparked widespread allegations of an attempt by Pakistan's military-backed interim government to rig the polls, mainly to prevent candidates loyal to Khan's party from gaining an upper hand.  "Unfortunately, the integrity of the ballot has been trampled," said Asma Shirazi, a prominent prime-time political talk show host, during a live broadcast on her Urdu-language Hum news channel. "The way candidates, with some winning by huge margins overnight, have been declared losers has made this election even more contentious." Pakistan's information and interior ministers told reporters Friday the election commission is the only authorized body to respond to allegations of rigging, claiming that "all major political entities are generally satisfied with the results." Protesters allege election rigging  In the northwestern town of Shangla, police clashed Friday with angry PTI supporters protesting alleged election rigging. A PTI statement later said the clashes left four of its workers dead and many more injured.  PTI-led rallies also erupted outside election offices elsewhere in Pakistan.  The European Union urged relevant Pakistani authorities Friday to ensure a timely and full investigation into reported election regularities.  "We regret the lack of a level playing field due to the inability of some political actors to contest the elections, restrictions to freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, both online and offline, restrictions of access to the internet, as well as allegations of severe interference in the electoral process, including arrests of political activists," said the EU statement.  The United States condemned restrictions on access to the internet and telecommunication services on Friday and expressed concern about allegations of interference in the electoral process.  "We now look forward to timely, complete results that reflect the will of the Pakistani people," said U.S. State Department spokesman Mathew Miller. "We join credible international and local election observers in their assessment that these elections included undue restrictions on freedoms of expression, association, and peaceful assembly." Pakistan has nearly 190 million cellular subscribers, including 128 million using mobile broadband services. The suspension of service prevented many voters from accessing the election commission's data system to retrieve polling station locations and other details.  Journalists with mainstream Pakistani television channels said they could not promptly report rigging incidents and other irregularities from the field throughout the day because of the suspension. 

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