When Bhutto was faced with the police strike in March 1972, he became disillusioned about the role of law enforcement agencies. He feared that the situation would deteriorate further. To pre-empt a disaster he took a bold step. He called General Tikka Khan, the newly-appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistan Army, and shared his intentions. The Federal Security Force came into existence almost immediately after that, fully equipped with modern arms. It was a formidable force mainly aimed at providing security to Bhutto and potentially thwart a possible coup — something he always feared. It would be under the direct control of no less a person than Bhutto himself.

The Federal Security Force was established with a force of 15,000 personnel; the plan was to increase its strength but this could not be done for want of funds. Stationed all over the country, its prime duty was to provide assistance to the police in maintaining law and order, beef up security at political meetings and rallies, keep a strict vigil over political opponents and even resort to violence if necessary to keep opponents in line. Through various branches it collected intelligence to counter the opposition parties and kept an eye on potential threats.

Haq Nawaz Tiwana, an officer drawn from the police, was the first director general of the FSF; he was soon replaced by Masood Mahmood, who had begun his career in the Indian Police Service two years before Independence and later received his law degree from Lincoln’s Inn. Bhutto and Masood Mahmood had a close relationship and frequently discussed various issues in confidence. However, after Ziaul Haq took over and opened the Kasuri murder case — investigating the death of Nawab Mohammad Ahmad Khan Kasuri, father of eminent politician Ahmad Raza Kasuri, who was killed on March 10-11, 1974 — Masood Mahmood became his ally and helped Ziaul Haq in sending Bhutto to the gallows.

To come back to the FSF, it is not clear why Bhutto really needed such a force. Many writers and social scientists believe that Bhutto did not want  any kind of opposition. They think that he wanted to keep the people, especially his political opponents, in a constant state of fright.

It is a fact that the FSF committed several acts of violence. Among them the killing of Dr Nazir Ahmad, was very shocking. A Jamaat-i-Islami leader and MNA elected from Dera Ghazi Khan, he was an outspoken leader who opposed dictatorship and autocratic rule in the country. He used to criticise the PPP and Bhutto’s policies. On June 8, 1972, he was killed by unknown assailants while he was working in his clinic. His murder was immediately blamed on the FSF.

Another violent tragedy was the firing at Liaquat Bagh on March 23, 1973 where a political rally was being held. As the meeting began, firing ensued from various sides killing dozens of people. Wali Khan blamed FSF for resorting to unprovoked firing that claimed many innocent lives. The firing was never investigated.

Besides this, cases against many opposition workers and activists were framed based on FSF intelligence reports. The FSF’s role as a force to encounter any attempt of a coup was becoming a farce and people were becoming aware of what was happening. After Ziaul Haq’s takeover, the case of Nawab Mahmood Ahmad Kasuri was opened and Masood Mahmood, its director general, selected by Bhutto himself, turned against him as state witness and paved the way for his death. Along with Bhutto, FSF officials Mian Abbas, Arshad Iqbal, Ghulam Mustafa and Rana Iftikhar were also sentenced to death. In July 1977, the FSF was disbanded by Ziaul Haq.