Parliamentary elections in Balochistan; how Iranian regime won and the Baloch lost!
Ali Asghar Tinab
Elections are fundamental for democracy and rule of law in a country; since they allow the participation of citizens in governing of their country through selecting the representatives to the offices of responsibility and holding them accountable for their performance. But, in Iran the theocratic regime in Tehran has been using elections as whitewash for legitimizing its unlawful existence for the last four decades.
The electoral system in Iran is unique. The candidates are pre-selected by a legislative body consisting of some octogenarian religious clerics, therefore a narrow range of candidates are found eligible to run for elections. As result, the Baloch candidates are meticulously filtered out by regime’s apparatus. In fact, the few hand-picked Baloch disguised as representatives from Balochistan hosted in Tehran are no more than the puppets of the regime. They act on the orders of the regime in advancing its ethnic cleansing, exploitative and discriminatory policies in Balochistan.
The recent parliamentary elections in Balochistan can be used as a yardstick for putting in perspective the security orientated and counterproductive strategy of Tehran. From its dawn this authoritarian regime has been leading this strategy toward Baloch and Balochistan. And rightly these elections due to their certain peculiarities have unmasked how the regime is pursuing its genocidal strategies in Balochistan with the help of few cautiously chosen Baloch.
The striking feature of these elections in Balochistan was the complete apolitical discourse of the candidates in province. Therefore, the candidates have resorted to old and traditional ways to get the people to vote for them. We have heard the rhetoric of tribalism and clan in all electoral campaigns of the candidates in almost all cities of Balochistan. Oddly enough this time there was no sign of any electoral patronage for the Baloch candidates from the mainstream political parties of the country.
Notwithstanding, it should come as no surprise how one gets selected in Balochistan without any visible electoral patronage. Since, the regime endorses the candidature of those Baloch who are wealthy, Sardar or chief of a tribe and ready to cooperate with it. Once these candidates are ratifies by their Master, it remains for them to get the local rapacious religious class in their pocket so that their winning could be guaranteed.
One might say that is how it has always been in Balochistan. This might be true to some extent. However, these elections showed that how far this regime has succeeded in holding back the Baloch civil society to unshackle the chains of tribalism, feudalism and religious domination.
With the Islamic Revolution and getting the power, the regime of mullahs lost now time in eliminating the dissidents, Sardars or chief of tribes and those who the mullahs had suspected of being the elements of the ancient regime. Thus, thousands of educated Baloch had been put into prison and executed and many more went into exile to save their lives. This vast campaign of cleansing deprived Balochistan of its educated forces and created a huge gap of leadership in province.
Subsequently, the regime in search of accomplices to fill this gap found the opportunistic religious forces in Baloch society as a reliable ally. But, after almost four decades of cohabitation the ever-increasing influence of these delirious religious forces has become a challenge for the regime in province. So, the security strategists of the regime, such as the slain commander of Quds forces Qassem Soleimani, have devised the revival and promotion of the tribalism and feudalism once again in Balochistan to counterbalance the power and to ensure that Baloch society remains divided.
Consequently, we have witnessed how the candidates were foaming to pronounce their discourses and remind their fellows of heroic acts of their tribe or clan and the purity of their religion. For instance, in capital of the province, Zahedan, it was a competition between the religious forces that of Shiism and Sunnism while in Chabahar constituency it was the race between the Sardars and tribal chiefs. Meanwhile all the candidates made sure to rest on top in show off in terms of having the highest number of latest model land cruisers in their campaign convoys.
The aspirations of a strong and dynamic Baloch civil society taking root were buried under the dusts of these rich and hollow processions of the rich candidates of the poor. Since for the common Baloch there was nothing hopeful in tribalism, feudalism and religious rhetoric that were continuously uttered by these pawns of fascist regime.
This regime is trying to promote and organize the people around the tribes, clans and religious lines so that it can prevent Baloch society from uniting over the more universal ideological values. The targets of the regime are the educated Baloch since in a patriarchal society there is no place for them. As we saw how the traditionalists cleared their way by elbowing other less fancy candidates.
Unfortunately, as result of politicking for the seats in a toothless parliament the candidates and the greedy religious forces have joined hands with the oppressive regime in crashing the hopes of thousands of educated Baloch men and women for a more progressive and open society. Moreover, the mullahs have renewed their partners in curbing further the civil liberties in Balochistan and continue treating the Baloch as third class citizens. Thus, the regime has succeeded in turning such campaigns into dangerous inter-communal competitions with devastating results for Baloch society for long years to come.
Ali Asghar Tinab