AI-generated speech by jailed Pakistani Ex-PM sparks controversy amid election transparency concerns.

On Sunday, the imprisoned former prime minister and founder of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) utilized an artificial intelligence (AI)-generated audio clip to address a virtual rally, marking the country’s first-of-its-kind event. Despite internet disruptions, the AI-generated image accompanied the audio during the PTI’s online rally, garnering over 1.4 million views on YouTube and drawing tens of thousands of live attendees on various social media platforms.

In the audio clip, the former prime minister lamented the restrictions on public rallies for his party, urging supporters to participate actively in the upcoming general elections scheduled for Feb 8. He highlighted alleged incidents of people associated with his party being kidnapped and their families facing harassment.

The livestream disruptions raised transparency concerns ahead of the elections, as users nationwide reported slow internet speeds and throttling—an approach used by telecom regulators to restrict streaming on applications. Pakistan’s telecoms regulator announced an investigation into the interruptions.

Officials from the PTI revealed that the founder’s speech was generated from an approved written version obtained from prison, where he has been incarcerated since his conviction on graft charges on Aug 5. The founder is entangled in numerous court cases, some conducted behind closed doors in prison, leading legal experts to argue that such proceedings infringe upon his right to a fair trial.

Murtaza Solangi, the information minister in the caretaker government overseeing the elections, suggested directing queries about internet disruptions to the telecom regulator or the Ministry of Information Technology. However, he did not address whether the disruptions constituted a violation of free speech and assembly rights mandated by election laws, potentially indicating pre-poll rigging.