Imran Khan, the former prime minister of Pakistan, is reportedly staying strong despite being in near-solitary confinement and deprived of his rights as a prisoner, his party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf said on Tuesday.
Khan has been sentenced to 34 years in jail after being convicted in four cases and has been disqualified from running in the national elections that begin on Thursday.
He has received several sentences, the latest of which was handed down last week after a district court ruled his 2018 marriage to Bushra Bibi broke the law.
“He's practically in solitary confinement,” PTI spokesman Syed Zulfiqar Bukhari told The National. "He's not been given ‘Class A’, which a parliamentarian and a former prime minister should be getting."
On Tuesday, the UN's top human rights body expressed concern over the “pattern of harassment” against members of Khan’s party ahead of this week's parliamentary election, AP reported.
His party and supporters claimed the sentencing was a punishment for his rhetoric against Pakistan’s powerful military.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights urged Pakistani authorities to ensure a fully free and fair voting process, following complaints by the PTI of harassment and the inability to hold rallies similar to the former ruling party and its candidate Nawaz Sharif.
Authorities have denied such claims.
Mr Bukhari said Khan is not allowed to leave his two-and-a-half by three metre prison cell at all, other than for lawyer’s visits.
Despite this, he says Khan is physically and mentally "strengthening himself up".
“He’s always been a person that flourishes in these adverse situations,” Mr Bukhari said. "In that sense, he is pretty good."
Still, there is concern that Mr Khan could be vulnerable in prison, particularly from the threat of poisoning.
“We've put all the responsibility on the prison itself to prepare the food for him and give it because if anything comes from outside that it could be dangerous.”
Why are Imran Khan and his wife sentenced to 14 years in prison? - video
In November 2022, the former cricket star was shot in the leg while addressing a crowd in Wazirabad, Punjab.
Although the assassin claimed to be acting on his own, it was widely believed, especially by Khan and his supporters, that it was co-ordinated by his political adversaries.
He came to power in 2018 on a platform to fight corruption and fix Pakistan’s economy, but he has been involved in legal battles since he was removed from power in 2022.
Since then, Khan’s political rivals – Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) and Pakistan People's Party – led by two political families who have dominated Pakistani politics for decades, have been regaining control of the country.
It is widely expected that Mr Sharif, the PML-N candidate, will win the election and become Pakistan’s prime minister for a record fourth term.
Several criminal convictions, which Khan and his party believe to be politically motivated, have now barred him from standing in general elections on Thursday.
“We’re coming up to these so-called democratic elections. There's nothing democratic about them," Mr Bukhari said.
"Every single thing is being done to suppress the popularity of Imran Khan and his party.
“And unfortunately, the world is quiet.”