ISLAMABAD: Embattled PTI founder and former prime minister Imran Khan made a surprising claim, saying that an essay recently published by The Economist under his name was actually “AI-generated”.

Mr Khan made the claim while talking to journalists allowed to cover proceedings inside the prison after attending two trials — one regarding a £190 million corruption case and the Toshakhana reference — at the Adiala Jail, on Monday.

Confirming the contents of the essay, Mr Khan said he did not write the piece himself, rather it was based on points he had dictated, which were put into words through the use of artificial intelligence.

In the essay attributed to him, Mr Khan had expressed apprehensions that the election scheduled for Feb 8 may not take place at all, adding that even if they do, such polls would be a “disaster and a farce since PTI is being denied its basic right to campaign”.

Although the content and tone of the article were in line with Mr Khan’s historic stance, several observers had doubts over whether the PTI founder had personally penned the piece.

Incarcerated PTI founder ‘owns’ article’s contents; SC asks party’s lawyers not to accuse ECP without proof

“It is not an issue that someone cannot write an article or a book while languishing in jail. We have the objection that the article in question has not been written by the former PTI chairman,” APP quoted caretaker Information Minister Murtaza Solangi as saying on Monday.

The minister said no such content was leaked from the jail to any media organisation and alleged that The Economist published “the ghost article” in the name of the former PTI chairman.

When asked about the provenance of the article, sources close to Mr Khan told Dawn that it contained facts mentioned by the PTI founder at different points in time, adding that the article was merely a consolidation of facts already available on social media platforms.

The sources said that Mr Khan had shared these details with some visitors who met him in prison, and they may have confided them to someone in the magazine, who consolidated these facts into the shape of an article.

Although AI-based programmes such as ChatGPT can be used to write articles, digital rights expert Usama Khilji expressed a degree of doubt over Mr Khan’s claim.

“Whether it was written as is by Imran Khan, AI was used based on his notes, or [it] was edited by his close aides is not as important as the substance of the article,” he said, adding that artificial intelligence was a tool that could be used to aid writing.

Since the article was first published on Thursday, it has been reposted at least seven times from the publication’s official X account. The posts have over 25 million views.

PTI’s social media team, meanwhile, has used replies under publication’s posts to put forth its narrative on the purge faced by the party. Several PTI supporters, including the party’s official account, have shared videos containing claims of an assassination attempt on Mr Khan’s life, alleged human rights violations and the persecution of party’s workers and leaders.

Level playing field

Separately, during the hearing of a petition seeking a level playing field for polls at the Supreme Court of Pakistan, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) told the bench, headed by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa, that the commission had accepted 598 out of a total of 843 nomination papers filed by PTI candidates for the National Assembly, while 1,398 out of 1,777 candidatures had been cleared for the provincial assemblies.

During the hearing, CJP Isa asked the PTI’s lawyers not to hurl allegations at the ECP without any proof.

PTI’s counsel Latif Khosa and Shuaib Shaheen said that their candidates were rounded up under Maintenance of Public Order and claimed that the PTI was not being given a level playing field.

They also pointed out that the ECP deprived the party of its iconic symbol and requested the restoration of the bat symbol.

The apex court has scheduled the hearing for PTI’s petition on Jan 11.

Published in Dawn, January 9th, 2024

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