Images of Pakistan ex-PM Imran Khan's sons 'on hajj pilgrimage' are doctored

As Muslims around the world embarked on the annual hajj, doctored images made the rounds in Pakistan in posts that falsely claimed they show the sons of jailed former leader Imran Khan taking part in the pilgrimage. The pictures were edited from photos of Indian reality stars performing the umrah pilgrimage in March 2023.

"Breaking News! Imran Khan's two sons are present at the Kaaba to get the blessings of Hajj this year," read an Urdu-language post on social media site X which shared the doctored images on June 13, 2024.

One picture appeared to show Khan's sons Kasim and Sulaiman Isa on a plane. The other purportedly showed them in front of the Kaaba, the holiest site in Islam at the centre of the Great Mosque in Mecca.

Kasim and Sulaiman Isa live in London with their mother Jemima Goldsmith, Pakistan's Express Tribune reported in 2023 (archived links here and here).

Goldsmith -- whose marriage to the former cricketing star ended in divorce -- has said her children are Muslims but has not publicly commented on whether they performed hajj this year (archived link).

Screenshot of the doctored images shared on X, captured June 25, 2024

The edited pictures circulated elsewhere on X as well as on Facebook here, here and here.

While comments suggested some social media users recognised the images were edited, others appeared to believe they were genuine.

"Congratulations @Jemima_Khan for the Hajj of your children," one comment read.

"May Allah accept their Hajj," another said.

Pakistani media organisation Soch Fact Check previously debunked the images (archived link). 

A reverse image search on Google found the image of the pair on a plane was taken from a photo posted on Instagram by Asim Riaz, who appeared in popular Indian reality show Bigg Boss (archived links here and here).

Riaz, who posted the photo on March 24, 2023, is seen sitting next to Aly Goni, who starred in a different season of the same reality show (archived link).

The post's caption included a hashtag that indicated both were travelling to Mecca to perform a pilgrimage made at any time of year and unlike hajj is not obligatory for Muslims.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the first doctored image (left) and original photo from Riaz's Instagram account (right):

Screenshots comparison of the photos in the misleading post (left) and original photo on Riaz's Instagram account (right)

Riaz posted various photos from his umrah pilgrimage on Instagram.

Indian media outlets Hindustan Times and ANI reported on Riaz and Goni's umrah pilgrimage in 2023 (archived links here and here).

Meanwhile, the other edited photo shared on social media appearing to show the brothers standing before the Kaaba originally also showed reality star Riaz.

He posted the photo on Instagram on April 9, 2023 with the caption: "Alhamdulihah (praise God) umrah with my brother" (archived link).

The image of the Kaaba was digitally added to that picture.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the doctored image circulating online (left) and the original photo (right):

Screenshot comparison of the photo in the misleading post (left) and original photo (right)

Imran Khan -- who was found guilty of graft over gifts he received in his time as premier -- remains wildly popular in Pakistan, despite not being on the ballot for the country's April 2024 elections.

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.

AFP has repeatedly debunked misinformation related to Khan here, here and here.

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