Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, currently incarcerated, broke new ground by addressing supporters through an AI-generated audio clip.
The virtual event, organized by Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, marked a first in South Asian politics. However, the online gathering faced disruptions, raising concerns about transparency ahead of the upcoming general elections.
Internet Rally Amidst Challenges:
The AI-generated speech played over an image of Khan, garnered over 1.4 million views on YouTube, and drew tens of thousands of live attendees on various social media platforms.
Khan highlighted the challenges his party faces, including restrictions on public rallies, alleged abductions of party members, and harassment of their families.
The virtual format was adopted due to a state-backed crackdown on physical gatherings and Khan’s media blackout.
Transparency Concerns Emerge:
While the virtual rally aimed to reach supporters despite physical restrictions, disruptions in livestreaming triggered concerns about transparency ahead of the February 8 general elections.
Users across Pakistan reported slow internet speeds and throttling, a method telecom regulators use to restrict app streaming.
Pakistan’s telecoms regulator is investigating the disruptions but mentioned that overall internet accessibility appeared normal.
The interruptions fuel apprehensions about the fairness of the electoral process, especially as Khan’s party faces constraints on traditional campaigning methods.
AI-Generated Speech Process:
Officials from Khan’s party revealed that the AI-generated speech was crafted from a written version approved by Khan in prison. The move comes as Khan grapples with numerous legal challenges and a crackdown on political activities.
Jailed since his conviction on graft charges in August, Khan is entangled in multiple court cases, some conducted behind closed doors, raising concerns about the fairness of legal proceedings.
The political landscape surrounding Khan remains tumultuous, marked by his ouster in a parliamentary vote of confidence last year and a subsequent crackdown on his party.
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