Things are absolutely bonkers in Pakistan right now


In one of the wildest recent stories in global politics, former Pakistani cricket star-turned-Prime Minister Imran Khan used AI-generated voice cloning to deliver a victory speech after his party won a national election—and he did it from behind bars.

“My Pakistanis, you have made history. I am extremely proud of you,” said Khan’s AI voice clone in a video uploaded to X on Friday. “Despite two years of facing extreme brutality and injustice, we have won the 2024 election with a two-thirds majority.”

The Pakistan-born, Oxford-educated Khan rose to national celebrity as a cricket star in the 1990s; he captained Pakistan’s team to its first-ever World Cup win in 1992. Khan then parlayed his fame into a political career, founding his own party, named PTI, in 1996. After years of slow but steady electoral gains, Khan was voted Prime Minister in 2018, promising to create jobs and provide more services to the nation’s poor. That election, however, was marred by allegations of vote-rigging and widespread violence.

But Khan’s fall from grace was swift. After taking office, he struggled to contain soaring inflation and maintain a good relationship with Pakistan’s military, which wields considerable political influence. His opponents banded together and expelled Khan from office in April 2022, calling a no-confidence vote. Khan claimed his ouster was illegitimate and supported by the United States in retaliation to Khan’s neutrality regarding the Ukraine war.

Things went from bad to worse for Khan when he was detained last fall on charges of leaking state secrets and profiting from his time in office. Khan and his wife are currently dealing with over 170 legal cases, and they’ve been in jail for months. 

Improbably, though, Khan’s political career is back on the rise. A wave of popular support has pushed him back into the political mainstream, and he’s leveraged AI to help run a public-facing campaign from inside his jail cell. 

A campaign poster for Pakistan's former Prime Minister, Imran Khan.
Imran Khan, Pakistan’s jailed former prime minister, just used an AI voice clone to deliver a victory speech from behind bars after his party won a national election.

Arif Ali—AFP/Getty Images

Khan and his social-media team first started posting AI-generated videos of Khan in December, using ElevenLabs’ voice-cloning technology to turn Khan’s notes and written scripts into realistic videos of him delivering speeches to his online audience. 

Despite winning the plurality in last week’s election, it’s yet to be determined if Khan’s PTI party will be able to put together a government. His two main rival political parties announced on X that they were planning on forming a coalition that would keep Khan and his party out of power. Because Khan’s party didn’t win a strict majority, all parties that won votes have until February 29 to form coalition governments—so it could be weeks until Pakistan has national leadership.

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