Pakistan’s jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan claimed victory on Friday in the country’s general election in an audio-visual message created using artificial intelligence and shared on his X social media account.
In the message, which is usually delivered by word through his lawyers, the AI version of Khan rejected rival and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s earlier claim to victory.
Khan called on his supporters to celebrate a win that was achieved despite what he calls a crackdown on his party, telling them: ‘I had faith in you. Your massive turnout frightened everyone. Nobody can stop us. Don’t be scared. Celebrate.’
Independent candidates backed by Khan won the most seats in Thursday’s national election, despite him jailed for an illegal marriage and his party barred from the polls.
They defied poll-watchers, who said that a military-backed campaign of mass arrests and harassment would lead to Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N), a party backed by Sharif, winning, putting him on track for a fourth term as prime minister.
Imran Khan (pictured) called on his supporters to celebrate a win that was achieved despite what he calls a crackdown on his party
A supporter of the convicted former prime minister Imran Khan wears a hat that celebrates his party
So far, independent candidates backed by Imran Khan have won the most seats
But the independent candidates won 98 out of the 265 contested seats, enough to make up the largest bloc in the country’s parliament, but not enough for an outright majority.
Pakistan Muslim League-N won a total of 66 seats, while the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), led by son of an assassinate former prime minister, took 51 seats.
At time of publication, 25 seats went to other parties, while a further 42 are yet to be called.
The race for one seat was postponed after a candidate was killed. The final results are set to be announced at midnight local time.
Sharif claimed victory after saying PML-N would approach PPP and other parties to form a ruling coalition.
His claim comes just a day after he rejected the idea of a coalition government.
It is not known whether PPP will take up the deal, as its leader criticised PML-N heavily on the campaign trail.
The UK, US and EU have all raised serious concerns over the way the election in Pakistan was conducted.
Pakistan cut all mobile phone and data services across the country on election day, in a move that was widely condemned.
The interior ministry said: ‘precious lives have been lost’ in recent militant attacks and the ‘security measures [were] essential to maintain the law and order situation and to deal with potential threats.’
Two political candidates were shot dead in the lead up to the national election, while a further 28 were killed in twin bomb blasts carried out by Islamic State outside the offices of political candidates.
Voters in Pakistan have to rely on a government-run text messaging service to confirm where which polling stations they are registered to vote at.
Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (pictured, right) next to his daughter Maryam Nawaz (pictured, left)
Supporters of Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif
NetBlocks, a global internet watchdog, said data confirmed there was a disruption to mobile phone and internet services on the day of the election
NetBlocks, a global internet watchdog, said data confirmed there was a disruption to mobile phone and internet services ‘corroborating widespread user reports of outages’.
‘The ongoing election day internet blackout in Pakistan is amongst the largest we’ve observed in any country in terms of severity and extent,’ NetBlocks director Alp Toker told AFP.
‘The practice is inherently undemocratic and is known to limit the work of independent election observers and cause irregularities in the voting process.’
There were also allegations that political activists were arrested in the run-up to the election.
Lord David Cameron, the UK’s foreign secretary, said today in a statement: ‘We recognise … serious concerns raised about the fairness and lack of inclusivity of the elections. We regret that not all parties were formally permitted to contest the elections and that legal processes were used to prevent some political leaders from participation.’
The US, meanwhile, called for an investigation into allegations that the election was interfered with by the military, with the State Department saying in a statement: ‘We condemn electoral violence … and are concerned about allegations of interference in the electoral process. Claims of interference or fraud should be fully investigated.’
The EU also joined in on calls for an official investigation into the election, adding: 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.’
Neighbouring Iran, however, congratulated Pakistan for the election, with its foreign ministry saying on that it ‘wished the brotherly, friendly and neighbourly country of Pakistan increasing prosperity.’
Soldiers were brought in to watch over the election
The election took place amidst security measures including mobile and internet restrictions
Earlier this week, Khan said his imprisonment was an ‘attempt to humiliate’ him
Earlier this week, Khan said his imprisonment was an ‘attempt to humiliate’ him and vowed that he would ‘rather die’ than strike a deal with the authorities.
The former Prime Minister of Pakistan and his wife Bushra Bibi were sentenced to seven years in prison on Saturday after a court ruled that they violated the law that a woman must wait three months before marrying again.
Bibi was previously married to a man who claimed that they divorced in November 2017, less than three months before she married Khan on January 1, 2018. Bibi has said they divorced in August 2017.
Khan has labelled the conviction – his third in two weeks – as an attempt to ‘humiliate and disgrace’ him and his wife, adding that this was the first time in 14 years anyone was jailed in Pakistan over an alleged illegal marriage.
The latest verdict follows another case in which Khan, 71, and Bibi, 49, were sentenced to 14 years in prison last Wednesday for corruption.
The former cricketer was also handed 10 year sentence on the day before for leaking state secrets. His sentences total 31 years, but they will be served concurrently.
Previously calling the convictions an attempt to undermine him politically, Khan remained defiant and vowed that he has not accepted a deal and would ‘rather die’ than to cut one in the future, according to local media.
Bibi is Khan’s third wife, following from Jemima Goldsmith, who was married to the former sportsman for nine years and former BBC weathergirl Reham Khan, who spent just 10 months with Khan.
Bibi and Khan denied they violated the three-month waiting period – a requirement of Islamic law and upheld by Pakistan. Khan and his family insist the trial is politically motivated.
More to follow.