In January 1984, giving in to international pressure, General Ziaul Haq allowed the Bhutto family, after six years of house arrests and imprisonment, to travel abroad for medical reasons.
After surgery, Benazir Bhutto resumed her political activities and began to raise concerns about the mistreatment of political prisoners in Pakistan at the behest of the Zia regime. The intensified pressure forced General Zia into holding a referendum to give a legitimacy to his government.
The referendum held on 1 December 1984 proved to be a farce: only 10% of voters bothered to turn out.
In 1985, Benazir Bhutto received the sad news of Shahnawaz Bhutto who was poisoned in a local hotel at Nice, France.
Further pressure from the international community forced General Zia to hold elections, for a unicameral legislature on a non-party basis.
Benazir Bhutto announced a boycott of the election on the grounds that they were not being held in accordance with the constitution of Pakistan.
She continued to raise her voice against human rights violations by the regime and addressed the European Parliament in Strasbourg in 1985.
In retaliation to the speech, Zia announced death sentences for 54 workers of her party at a military court in Lahore headed by Zia himself.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2011