Doctored video originally shows plane with banner calling for Imran Khan's release

A plane did not display a banner calling Pakistan's jailed ex-prime minister Imran Khan a "watch thief" ahead of a cricket match in New York between arch-rivals Pakistan and India. A video purportedly showing the stunt, which racked up hundreds of thousands of views online, appears to refer to a graft case against Khan over gifts including luxury watches. However, the video is doctored and the original footage shows a banner that read "Release Imran Khan".

"Situation above the stadium before the Pakistan-India match. The flag of the watch thief was waved in the skies of the United States," said an Urdu Facebook post on June 10, 2024.

It showed a video, viewed more than 218,000 times, appearing to show a plane flying a banner that said "ghari chor" -- "watch thief" in English.

Khan -- an international cricketing star before he turned to politics -- was found guilty of graft over gifts including luxury watches he received in his time as premier between 2018 and 2022.

While his 14-year sentence has been suspended, the conviction still stands.

A Pakistan high court overturned his treason conviction in June but he remains jailed for breaking Islamic law by marrying his wife Bushra Bibi too soon after her divorce.

He claims the cases were orchestrated to prevent his return to power. 

Screenshot of the false Facebook post taken on June 11, 2024

The manipulated video was shared in similar posts here, here and here on Facebook and here, here and here on social media platform X. 

Many of the posts were shared by supporters of the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz party, which formed a coalition government that shut out Khan's loyalists, who won the most seats in February's elections.

Comments on posts indicated many users believed the claim.

"This Pakistani nation has no sense. These sorts of things look good in our own country. It is insulting to our own country when done abroad," wrote one

"Wow, watch thief's flag," said another. 

Manipulated video

A reverse image search of the video on Google found the original footage in fact showed a plane with banner that read "Release Imran Khan".

The clip was published by Pakistani media outlets including Dawn News and Capital TV (archived links here and here).

Below is a screenshot comparison of the manipulated video (left) and the original posted by Dawn News (right): 

Screenshot comparison

AFP also distributed a photo credited to Getty Images that showed the banner reading "Release Imran Khan".


The photo caption read: "A plane flies over the stadium with an attached banner reading 'Release Imran Khan' prior to the ICC Men's T20 Cricket World Cup West Indies & USA 2024 match between India and Pakistan at Nassau County International Cricket Stadium on June 09, 2024 in New York."

A low-scoring thriller saw India beat Pakistan by six runs on a tricky batting surface.

The cricket rivalry between the nuclear-armed neighbours is one of the world's great international sporting feuds.

Matches attract staggering numbers of viewers -- though the sides face each other only in larger tournaments and in third countries because of long-standing political tensions.

AFP has fact-checked more misinformation about Imran Khan here.

Is there content that you would like AFP to fact-check? Get in touch.

Contact us