Photo of Imran Khan-led rally in 2014 doctored to add gun

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A doctored photo that appears to show a man pointing a gun from a vehicle has been shared thousands of times in posts that falsely claim it shows a supporter of former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan at an election rally in March 2023. It circulated online after local media reported that Khan had suspended an election rally in Lahore, Pakistan's second-largest city, following arrests of his supporters. The weapon shown in the photo has been digitally inserted into an image from a rally that Khan led in August 2014.

The doctored photo was shared on Facebook on March 8, 2023.

"Imran Khan trying hard to recreate the Model Town tragedy in Lahore today!! The police foiled the plan and saved Model Town from another tragedy," the post's Urdu-language caption reads.

The Model Town tragedy refers to a 2014 incident in Lahore's Model Town suburb where over a hundred people were injured in clashes between police and political workers.

Former premier Khan, routed from office in a no-confidence motion in April 2022, has been pressuring the fragile coalition which replaced him with daily speeches, regular rallies and allegations of corruption.

The photo circulated on the same day Khan suspended an election rally in Lahore following arrests of his supporters, the Pakistan English-language broadsheet The News International reported.

Screenshot of the post with the doctored image taken on March 13, 2023.

Several users appeared to believe the photo genuinely showed a supporter of Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party waving a gun.

"This is what PTI idiots are like," one commented in Urdu.

Another appeared to criticise Khan directly, saying: "This conspiracy of his will never be successful."

The photo was also shared alongside a similar claim across Facebook here, here, here and here; and on Twitter here, here, here and here.

Pakistani journalist Mubasher Lucman also shared the photo on Twitter with his 5.9 million followers. It was subsequently reshared more than 2,000 times.

A reverse image search, followed by a keyword search on Google, found the photo had been doctored to add the gun.

'Freedom' march

The original photo was published here on August 15, 2014 by Getty Images.

Its description reads in part: "Supporters of Pakistani cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) or Movement for Justice arrive in Islamabad to take part in Azadi (Freedom) march on August 15, 2014."

Below is a screenshot comparison of the doctored photo (left) and the original from Getty Images (right):

Screenshot comparing the post with the doctored image (left) and the original from Getty Images (right).

The photo's caption also credits the Turkish state-run Anadolu Agency which published the same picture on August 15, 2014.

At the time, Khan had led an "Azadi" or "freedom" march towards the capital Islamabad in a bid to force the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to step down from office, Dawn newspaper reported on August 15, 2014.