Imran Khan’s Guerrilla Campaign: Contesting Pakistan’s Election from Jail

Lahore, Pakistan — Jibran Ilyas had a breakthrough moment. Amid the uncertainty that had engulfed the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and its charismatic leader, former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who had been in jail for months, Ilyas and his team devised a novel approach to campaigning for the February 8 elections to the National Assembly and provincial legislatures.

It all began with a message from Ilyas and his team to Khan in jail, who approved their idea to hold a “virtual rally” to circumvent the ban on their public gatherings. The PTI’s first “virtual rally” on December 17 reached an audience of over five million through a platform called StreamYard.

Additionally, the team used artificial intelligence (AI) to generate a four-minute-long address by Khan, which was interspersed with clips from his previous speeches and video montages.

Despite the challenging circumstances, the PTI has utilized digital tools to compete in the elections. Following the ban on the party’s symbol, the PTI set up an online portal to help voters identify their candidates by entering their constituency numbers.

The PTI’s agility and ability to adapt to the changing political landscape have allowed them to find alternative ways to reach the public and engage their supporters. This has included using WhatsApp for campaign outreach and social media platforms such as TikTok and YouTube to hold events.

In contrast, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) have been slow to adapt to the evolving political landscape and have focused on traditional campaigning methods.

Despite facing resistance from state institutions, the PTI has leveraged modern campaign techniques to engage voters and hopes that their efforts will translate into votes on February 8.

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