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For the first time, artificial intelligence has been used to deliver a speech by Pakistan’s imprisoned former Prime Minister Imran Khan to supporters. The stunning development could help his political party to win upcoming elections, analysts said Monday.
The replicated voice of Pakistan’s most popular opposition figure was used to address a virtual event on social media watched by more than a million people. The four-minute speech was written by Khan in prison and delivered by AI.
It was not immediately clear if Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, or PTI, violated any laws. The party confirmed the speech was AI-generated. Khan’s public addresses are heavily restricted in Pakistan.
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Pakistan’s government has not commented.
Khan has had almost no contact with the outside world since he was imprisoned in August on a corruption charge. He faces a slew of other legal cases, making it impossible for him to contest the Feb. 8 parliamentary polls. His lawyer says he still could submit his nomination papers as his appeal of his conviction and sentencing has yet to be decided by a court.
Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan gestures as he speaks with Reuters during an interview, in Lahore, Pakistan, March 17, 2023. (REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro)
The use of AI on Khan’s voice, and the buzz it has created, demonstrates his popularity. It also shows how technologically advanced Khan’s political party is compared to the older, more established ones, according to analysts.
“The use of artificial intelligence in Pakistan is something new, and even I was not expecting that the PTI could use it ahead of elections in an effort to mobilize supporters,” said Umayr Hassan, a Lahore-based computer engineer.
Azim Chaudhry, an Islamabad-based political analyst, said about 128 million voters are eligible to vote but barely 20 million people in Pakistan use social media.
He said it remained to be seen how the government would respond to the AI-generated audio. “Definitely, the use of artificial intelligence will give a boost to PTI, but the big question is whether Imran Khan violated any laws, as no criminal can directly or indirectly address such rallies under the law,” he said.
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In the audio, the voice replicating Khan’s was heard praising his supporters and his social media followers. It urged people to vote for PTI in the upcoming elections.