Fact Check

Is This a Real Photo of Woman Facing Armed Police During Pakistan Protest?

Supporters of ex-Prime Minister Imran Khan took to the streets in protest after he was arrested on corruption charges.

Published May 16, 2023

Image Via @kursed/Twitter
A photograph authentically shows a woman facing armed police during protests in Lahore, Pakistan, against the arrest of ex-Prime Minister Imran Khan.

While there are reports of numerous women protesters being attacked and arrested by law enforcement in Pakistan, this photograph was artificially generated and not an actual depiction of the protests.

On May 9, 2023, ex-Prime Minister Imran Khan was arrested on corruption charges by paramilitary forces during a court appearance in Islamabad, Pakistan. Soon after his dramatic arrest, violent clashes broke out between police and protesters in cities across Pakistan. Social media showed footage of a women protester being dragged by police, while in other videos protesters burned tires and pelted police with stones. 

In the days after Khan's arrest, a purported photograph of a woman facing down police forces in Pakistan went viral.

This photograph is not real. It was generated using artificial intelligence (AI). In doing a reverse-image search on Google, we were directed to numerous reposts of the image, but no reputable media sources actually shared such a photograph. 

The woman's left hand is oddly shaped, upon closer inspection, and the strange angle of her left knuckles does not appear to be realistic. As we have noted before, unrealistic hands and lips are often a characteristic of AI-generated images. Furthermore, the lighting on her body does not reflect the lighting on the policemen in the background. 

Pakistani fact-checking outlet Soch Fact Check noted that the police helmets and uniforms do not match those worn by law enforcement in the country. For comparison, here are some photographs of police and protesters clashing in Lahore. The police in these photos are either wearing caps or lighter-colored helmets that completely cover the ears and neck. 

Soch Fact Check also found the creator of the viral image, Abdullah Saad, the chief executive of Where Consumers Come First (Wccf) Tech, a website focused on technology. Saad confirmed that he made the image using Midjourney, a generative artificial intelligence program. He originally posted the image on May 11, 2023, as well. 

He noted, "the inspiration as explained under the original image was the incident involving Tayyaba Raja in Lahore." 

He also shared the original video of the protester that inspired his image:

Raja was a protester whose actions went viral on social media when a video showed her flinging a black dupatta, or scarf, on the ground in front of police, who then dragged her by the hair toward a larger contingent of officers. 

Given that the image was not posted by any reputable news organization, carries all the signs of being an AI-generated image, and has been debunked by local fact-checkers in Pakistan who tracked down the original creator, we rate this claim as "False." 


Evon, Dan. "Snopes Tips: A Guide To Performing Reverse Image Searches." Snopes, 22 Mar. 2022, https://www.snopes.com/articles/400681/how-to-perform-reverse-image-searches/. Accessed 16 May 2023.

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Taylor, Jerome and Sophia Saifi. "Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan Arrested by Paramilitary Police." CNN, 9 May 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/05/09/asia/imran-khan-arrest-intl/index.html. Accessed 16 May 2023.

"Twitter Hails Courage of Woman Who Stood Toe to Toe with Police in Lahore Cantt." Images, 11 May 2023, https://images.dawn.com/news/1191775. Accessed 16 May 2023.

Uz Zaman, Haseem. "AI-Generated Photo of Woman at PTI Protest Passed off as Real." Soch Fact Check, 16 May 2023, https://www.sochfactcheck.com/ai-generated-artificial-intelligence-photo-of-woman-at-pti-protest-passed-off-as-real-imran-khan-pakistan-midjourney/. Accessed 16 May 2023.

Waqar, Ali and Umar Farooq, Wasim Riaz. "PTI Says Worker Killed in Police Crackdown in Lahore Following Imposition of Section 144." DAWN.COM, 8 Mar. 2023, https://www.dawn.com/news/1741058. Accessed 16 May 2023.

Nur Nasreen Ibrahim is a reporter with experience working in television, international news coverage, fact checking, and creative writing.

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