Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's children and his wife Nusrat Bhutto found the military dictatorship of General Zia-ul-Haq very difficult. Benazir Bhutto and her younger brother Murtaza spent eighteen months in and out of house arrest as she struggled to rally political support to force General Zia-ul-Haq to drop murder charges against her father.
On behalf of Bhutto's former Law minister Abdul Hafeez Pirzada, the Bhutto family filed a petition at the Chief Martial Law Administrator Office for the reconsideration of the sentence of Zulfiqar Bhutto, and for the release of Bhutto's friend Dr. Mubashir Hassan.
However, General Zia-ul-Haq claimed to have misplaced the petition, and further ignored worldwide appeals for clemency and had Zulfiqar Bhutto hanged in April 1979 despite appeals of clemency worldwide.
Following the hanging of Bhutto, Benazir and Murtaza were arrested repeatedly. However, following PPP's victory in the local elections, General Zia postponed the national elections indefinitely and moved Benazir, Murtaza, and their mother Nusrat Bhutto from Karachi to Larkana Central Jail.
This was the seventh time Nusrat Bhutto and her children had been arrested within two years of the military coup.
After repeatedly placing them under house arrest, the regime finally imprisoned Benazir under solitary confinement in a desert cell in Sindh during the summer of 1981. She described the conditions in her wall-less cage in her book "Daughter of Destiny", which goes by the title of "Daughter of the East" in Commonwealth countries for copyright reasons:
The summer heat turned my cell into an oven. My skin split and peeled, coming off my hands in sheets. Boils erupted on my face. My hair, which had always been thick, began to come out by the handful. Insects crept into the cell like invading armies. Grasshoppers, mosquitoes, stinging flies, bees and bugs came up through the cracks in the floor and through the open bars from the courtyard. Big black ants, cockroaches, seething clumps of little red ants and spiders. I tried pulling the sheet over my head at night to hide from their bites, pushing it back when it got too hot to breathe.
-Benazir Bhutto, summer of 1981
After her six month imprisonment in Sukkur jail, she remained hospitalized for months after which she was shifted to Karachi Central Jail, where she remained imprisoned until 11 December 1981.
She was then placed under house arrest in Larkana and Karachi for eleven and fourteen months, respectively.