Jailed former prime minister of Pakistan Imran Khan has claimed victory for his supporters in the country’s general election – via a video generated using artificial intelligence (AI).
Many candidates from Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) were forced to stand as independents in the election after an alleged crackdown which saw senior party figures jailed and their campaigning activities restricted.
In the clip, Khan is heard telling independent candidates to celebrate their win, while he also rejects Sharif’s declaration of victory.
With nearly 90% of the results in on Sunday night, independent candidates backed by Khan’s PTI party had won 95 seats, while Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (PML) had secured 66 seats.
A total of 169 seats are required for a majority in the 336-seat assembly. Some 265 seats were up for grabs in Thursday’s poll.
It came as the EU, UK and US all cast doubt over the integrity of the vote.
Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron said there were “serious concerns” about the “fairness and lack of inclusivity of the elections” amid accusations of military interference and vote-rigging.
In a statement on Sunday night, he added: “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”.
During the election campaign, police blocked the PTI from holding rallies and opening offices, while the party was also banned from using its symbol – a cricket bat – to help illiterate voters find it on ballot papers.
Khan and other senior PTI figures were also jailed on what they claim were politically-motivated charges.
‘We don’t have enough of a majority’
After declaring victory on Sunday, Mr Sharif told reporters his younger brother, fellow former leader Shehbaz Sharif, would hold talks with other party leaders to discuss a way forward – just a day after he rejected the idea of joining forces with any of his rivals.
He admitted: “We don’t have enough of a majority to form a government without the support of others and we invite allies to join the coalition so we can make joint efforts to pull Pakistan out of its problems.”
The former prime minister also urged victorious independent candidates to enter his potential coalition.
“I don’t want to fight with those who are in the mood for fighting,” he said. “We will have to sit together to settle all matters.”
He said the meetings would include talks with Asif Ali Zardari, the husband of assassinated ex-Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and father of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari of the Pakistan People’s Party – which is in third place so far with 51 seats.
‘Interference in electoral process’
Mr Sharif, who has been prime minister of Pakistan three times previously, returned to the country in October after four years of self-imposed exile, including time in London, to avoid serving several prison sentences.
But within weeks of his return, his convictions were overturned, leaving him free to seek a fourth term.
The election was held amid tight security, with thousands of troops deployed on the streets and at polling stations across the country.
Pakistan’s borders with Iran and Afghanistan were also temporarily closed as security was stepped up.
Police also said two people were killed and six were injured in the northwest district of Shangla after clashes broke out between Khan supporters and officers.
The US state department said the election had been carried out amid a backdrop of restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly.
Spokesperson Matthew Miller added: “We are concerned about allegations of interference in the electoral process.”
The European Union also called on authorities to ensure “a timely and full investigation” of all reported election irregularities.