Long a neglected, but outwardly loyal region under the shah, Iranian Baluchistan is awash in concessions handed out by a triumphant, but weak revolutionary government in Tehran.
Less than a month after armed Baluchis protected a statue of the shah's father furing revloutionary wrath here, the southeastern province's governor general and other key officials are from Baluchistan for the first time rather than men chosen purposely from elsewhere in the country.
Prompting such unaccustomed central government largesse is the nightmae vision of the Baluchis joining forces in separatist schemes with the Kurdish, Azerbaijani, Arab and Turkoman national minorities that make up roughly half Irna's population.
In dealing with Baluchistan, Tehran's new rulers were especially mindful of the shaky state o the government of neighboring Pakistan where Baluchis long have been tempted by separatist dreams.
Indicative of worries over Baluchistan was the visit here this week of Agha Shahi, a foreign affairs adviser to Pakistan's President Mohammed Zia ul-Haq, to discuss relations between the two countries.
Baluchi nationalists also credited the forceful example of their more politically experienced Kurdish counterparts in western Iran who have imposed de facto autonomy and are demanding a federal solution for all national minorities in Iran to be written into the new constitution.
Following in the footsteps of the Kurds -- fellow Sunni Moslems in predominantly Shiite Islamic Iran -- Iran's 600,000 Baluchis were represented bya cleric, Maulavi Abdul Aziz, in the recent religious and political dealings in Tehran with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leader of Iran's revolution.
But perhaps more important for an arid, austere land scourged by seven years of drought and dependent on smuggling to make ends meet, Baluchis for the first time have succeeded in forming a political party.
Their Islamic Unity Party groups clergy, traditional leaders called sardars and a tiny, elite group of perhaps 500 university-educated persons.
Elitist in organization but popular in appeal, the party was founded four months ago when practically no Baluchis were backing a revolution that was clearly winning. Instead most supported Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi out of habit.
Not only was the shah seen as the dispenser of economic favors, a foreign observer noted, "but it took some time for it to sink in with Baluchi, right up to the first batch of generals executed in mid-February-- that the shah was never coming back."
Even today few Khomeini portraits are seen in Zahedan's streets and the average, illiterate Baluchi matter of factly denounces the Iranian revolutions's leader as a Shiite rogue or a communist.
Nonetheless, the new Baluchi authorities feel confident they can end the long record of semicolonial central government discrimination against Baluchistan that has left the province as poor -- if not poorer -- than any in Iran.
For example, only 50 of Zahedan University's 550 students are Baluchis.
Now, however, a kind of honeymoon exists with the central government deferring to the Baluchi elite in filling key official jobs. The elite hopes in turn that average Baluchis will rally around both central and provinicl government administrations now that they can identify with the local jobholders.
Thus Aziz, a bearded, 63-year-old figure in gold-trimmed black cloak, repeatedly denies any separatist aspirations.
"We will give our full support to the [Tehran] government as long as there is no disrespectful behavior toward our [Sunni] religion and our national rights are respected," he said in an interview.
Included in national rights, he made clear, were teaching the Sunni rite and the n ow-banned Baluchi language in schools and the cmaximum use of local talent" in the province's administration, including the police and m ilitary forces stationed here.
He regarded Tehran's concessions as "only a beginning" and said he hoped "all our wishes will be fulfilled." High on his list was a request that the new constitution under discussion formally enshrine respect for both main branches of Islam, not just the Shiite sect.
He considered "insignificant" the shah's increased investment in Baluchistan over the past five years -- a function of the oil boom and worry over the deteriorating political situation in Pakistan, where 1.2 million Baluchis live. "We never received our fair share," he said.
Hopes of persuading Tehran to increase its investments in Baluchistan figures prominently in Baluchi thinking.
A Western-educated intellectual who took part in Khomeini's talks with Aziz said the Baluchis were more interested in informal guarantees than formal written promises favored by the Kurds.
He said "the Baluch mission was satisfied" because "there is a sense that this is our government" in Baluchistan.
The Baluchis dropped their original temptation to push for a federalist plank in the new constitution because "they won us over by agreeing so readily to our suggestions, especially their promise not to appoint anyone without consultation," he said.
Ruefully questioning his own credulity, he wondered out loud whether the central government was not operating in Iran's time-honored way of "giving bribes and co-opting the elite."
"Even when the government has been beneficial, it has been very patronizing," he said, noting that Baluchis had become ashamed of not speaking Persian fluently and wearing their baggy pants national costume to government offices.
Not that Baluchistan was to be governed by its own officials, he insisted, "the sense of being colonized may diminish."
But the central government, especially if challenged by what it regards as incipient separatism, may feel obliged to crack down hard once it is in a position to marshall its now badly divided forces.
If push comes to shove, Baluchis, like the Kurds, are short n either of guns nor of mountains from which to fight.
For the moment, Tehran has little choice but to bide its time since it is deprived of a functioning police, gendarmerie and army.
But the Islamic revolution's puritanical tendencies may yet embroil the central government in unwanted trouble in Baluchistan.
Already, various Persian religious leaders have denounced smuggling involving Iranian ports on the Persian Gulf.
Carried out by 10 to 15 big operators using fleets of trucks, smuggling is practiced on a large scale with high speed launches bringing goods into Chah Bahar Port on the Arbian Sea from passing freighters.
The sturdy, concrete Baluchi bazaar here -- built by the shah -- boasts a full array of smuggled foreign goods -- ranging from British-made playing cards featuring nude women, to Taiwan blue jeans, Chinese watches and Singapore's famous Tiger Balm ointment cure-all.
Subsidized sugar, liquor -- in the days before the revolution banned alcohol -- washing machines, watches, apricots and pistachios are smuggled into Parkistan and Pakistan smuggles into Iran opium, heroin, tangerines, tea and cloth.
"If the government tries to stop smuggling, there will be big trouble here," a merchant said, "These poor fellows just live on smuggling."