Sanjha Morcha

Iran says Pakistan backs terror group that killed 27

ISFAHAN/MUNICH: Iran’s Revolutionary Guards accused “Pakistan’s security forces” of supporting the perpetrators of a suicide bombing that killed 27 troops on Wednesday, in remarks state TV aired on Saturday hours before their funeral was held.

AP■ Iranian Revolutionary Guard members arrive for a ceremony at Azadi Square in Tehran.

“Pakistan’s government, who has housed these anti-revolutionaries and threats to Islam, knows where they are and they are supported by Pakistan’s security forces,” said Revolutionary Commander Mohammad Ali Jafari, referring to jihadist group Jaish al-Adl.

“If (the Pakistan government) does not punish them, we will retaliate against this anti-revolutionary force, and whatever Pakistan sees will be the consequence of its support for them,” he warned. The general made the remarks in Isfahan on Friday evening during a farewell ceremony held for those killed.

Jaish al-Adl was formed in 2012 as a successor to the Sunni extremist group Jundallah, which waged a deadly insurgency for a decade before it was severely weakened by the capture and execution of its leader Abdolmalek Rigi by Tehran in 2010.

The Wednesday bombing targeted a busload of Revolutionary Guards in the volatile southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchistan, which straddles the border with Pakistan.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has linked the perpetrators of the attack to “the spying agencies of some regional and trans-regional countries”.

EUROPEANS FIRE BACK AT CRITICISM FROM US

Germany’s foreign minister on Friday slammed US President Donald Trump’s protectionist trade measures as creating a “lose-lose” situation and defended Europe’s attempts to keep a nuclear deal with Iran alive after the unilateral American withdrawal.

Heiko Maas fired back after harsh criticism from US vicepresident Mike Pence of some of Washington’s closest European allies.

Maas told a conference of world leaders and top diplomats and defence officials that Germany, Britain, France and the European Union as a whole were “committed to preserving the 2015 deal” meant to prevent Iran “from obtaining a bomb”.


Arson, stone pelting by mobs in Jammu, curfew extended

JAMMU: Violent protests rocked Jammu for the second consecutive day on Saturday with reports of arson and stone pelting by mobs protesting the attack on security personnel in Pulwama that killed 40. Jammu deputy commissioner, Ramesh Kumar, said a curfew imposed on Friday will continue and a decision to lift restrictions will be taken in the evening after assessing the situation.

NITIN KANOTRA / HINDUSTAN TIMES■ Army personnel conduct a flag march during curfew in Jammu on Saturday, following violence over the terror attack in Pulwama.

SECURITY FORCES WERE DEPLOYED ACROSS THE CITY. ARMY CHOPPERS HOVERED OVER THE CITY AND MOBILE INTERNET REMAINS SUSPENDED

“Earlier, there were some peaceful protests but in the afternoon they turned violent and some vehicles were set afire. Curfew will continue. People have been requested not to come out of their homes. They have been told not to believe in rumours and cooperate with the administration to restore normalcy. Educational institutions are closed,” Kumar said.

He also said that security to civil secretariat employees and Kashmiris in Jammu was being provided. “No mischievous element will be allowed to vitiate the atmosphere,” he said.

Security forces and army were deployed across the city . Concertina wires were laid on various roads to check the movement of the people. Army helicopters hovered over the city and mobile internet remains suspended .

“Now a total of 15 columns are out on the streets of Jammu city,” said defence spokesman, Lt Col Devender Anand, adding, “Three columns have been kept on a stand-by.” One column comprises 70 soldiers, two JCOs (junior commissioned officer) and an officer.

Stone pelting was reported from the Janipur area on Saturday morning . “At around 9am, a group of mischievous elements pelted stones at government quarters in Janipur,” said president of the civil secretariat union, Ghulam Rasool Mir.


Maj from Doon dies in Rajouri IED explosion

Maj from Doon dies in Rajouri IED explosion

Major Chitresh Singh Bisht

Shyam Sood

Rajouri, February 16

Major Chitresh Singh Bisht, 31, was killed while defusing an improvised explosive device (IED) in Jhangar area of Rajouri district in Nowshera sector today.   He belonged to Dehradun. Sources said his marriage was fixed for March 7.

Sources said four IEDs were detected deep inside the Indian territory. “A team headed by Major Bisht was called. One of the IEDs was neutralised but another got activated. The Major suffered grievous injuries and died,” said defence spokesperson Lt Col Devender Anand.

Major SG Naik and Rifleman Jeevan Gurung were killed in two IED blasts in the same area on January 11. In another incident, Havildar Jagdev Singh was injured in Runglidhar, Babakhori area, also in the Nowshera sector, reportedly in sniper fire across the Line of Control.

With the situation tense following the fidayeen attack on a CRPF convoy in Pulwama on Thursday, “exchange of heavy mortar shelling can’t be ruled out in the coming days”, sources said.

 


Afghan-trained IED expert plotted Pulwama explosives? Local ultra acted as ‘driver’ of vehicle that hit CRPF bus

Afghan-trained IED expert  plotted Pulwama explosives?

Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 16

A terrorist who learnt the method of carrying out big blasts during his stint in Afghanistan is suspected to have assembled the huge cache of explosives planted in a vehicle that hit a CRPF bus in Pulwama, killing its 40 personnel.

Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) has claimed responsibility for the attack, the worst ever on security forces in Jammu and Kashmir.

Sources said security forces were looking for Abdul Rasheed Ghani, alias Kamran, a close associate of JeM chief Masood Azhar. He is learnt to have been sent to India in December last and is stated to be a JeM expert on making improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Adil Ahmed Dar, the driver of the explosive-laden vehicle that rammed the CRPF convoy, was a Class XI dropout and had been into terror operations for only 11 months. Sources said in such a short period, he could not have learnt enough to assemble around 200-kg explosives. Dar, a labourer, had joined the terror group led by Zakir Musa and was among the lower-rung ultras.

The fact that someone collected such huge quantity of explosives, rigged it with a trigger to explode it and placed it in a vehicle before launching points to the involvement of more people. Dar could not have pulled it off solely and his role in the operation is now suspected to be of only a driver.

Ghazi is hiding somewhere in southern Kashmir — Pulwama, Awantipora or Tral. Intelligence agencies had picked up inputs of his having entered India and he narrowly escaped in an encounter with the Army. Security agencies are still trying to find out who owned the vehicle used in the attack.

In the deadliest attack of the last 30 years of militancy in Kashmir, Dar, acting as suicide bomber, rammed his vehicle into the CRPF bus at 3.15 pm on Thursday, killing 40 jawans and injuring a dozen others along the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway in Awantipora, Pulwama.

Youth booked for ‘derogatory’ post

  • Bengaluru: A Kashmiri youth was booked on Saturday for allegedly posting derogatory remarks on a social networking site in the wake of the Pulwama terror attack. Following a complaint by VHP, a case was registered against Abid Malik, who allegedly shared some images posted by a news channel after the attack and captioned it ‘The real surgical attack’ on his FB page, police said. PTI

Ex-Air Force official shoots himself dead

Ex-Air Force official shoots himself dead

arnail Singh

Tribune News Service

Mohali, February 16

A retired official of the Indian Air Force allegedly shot himself dead with a .12 bore rifle at his rented accommodation in Sector 69 here today.

The victim, Karnail Singh (74), who hailed from Raipur village near Chamkaur Sahib, was said to be unwell. According to the police, the incident took place this afternoon.

“He shot himself in his abdomen with the help of his foot. The police recovered two shells from the spot. They have ruled out any foul play in the incident. The victim suffered two bullet injuries in his abdomen,” said Inspector Rajiv Kumar, Station House Officer of the Phase 8 police station here.

The police claimed that the victim could not hear and speak due to some accident, which took a few years ago.

The victim is survived by his wife and three children. All of his children are settled abroad. According to Inspector Rajiv Kumar, the body has been kept in the mortuary.

 


India moves to isolate Pakistan

RETALIATION Officials prepare dossier on Islamabad’s terror funding, restrict medical visas to Pak citizens

From page 01 NEWDELHI: Dossiers for global circulation on Islamabad’s role in the Pulwama attack, tighter visa rules for Pakistani citizens coming to India for medical treatment, and a 200% increase in duties on goods imported from the country are part of New Delhi’s plans to tighten the screws on its neighbour over Thursday’s terror attack that left 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel dead.

HT FILE■ The government is planning to tighten medical visa requirements for security reasons.The customs duty increase was announced by Union finance minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday as foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale and secretaries of the external affairs ministry held meetings with several envoys, including ambassadors from the Association of Southeast Nations, the Gulf Cooperation Council and Central Asian and African nations.

India launched a diplomatic offensive against Pakistan on Friday, a day after the Pulwama attack, when Gokhale met 25 heads of missions, including the P5 or five permanent members of the UN Security Council — the United States, the United Kingdom, China, Russia and France — besides South Asian countries and key partners such as Israel, Japan and South Korea.

Also on Friday, India withdrew the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status it gave to Pakistan in 1996, which offered the neighbour a guarantee that it wouldn’t be treated any differently from other trade partners of India. “Upon withdrawal (of MFN), basic customs duty on all goods exported from Pakistan to India has been raised to 200% with immediate effect,” finance minister Arun Jaitley wrote on Twitter on Saturday.

Orders to remove security detail of “separatist leaders” have also been issued by the government. “Only a few have security cover, it will be removed in comings days,” a senior officer who did not want to be named said.

The government’s tighter medical visa rules is for security reasons, two officials aware of the developments said. The curbs on medical visas is likely to end Pakistanis’ access to cheap and quality medical facilities in India. An immediate option is to demand additional documents, including an endorsement by Pakistan’s foreign ministry, to ensure only genuine patients can enter India for medical treatment, one of the officials quoted earlier, said.

At present, cases of organ transplants, particularly liver and kidney, require authentication by Pakistan’s foreign ministry. The purpose is to ensure that an organ donor is donating his or her organ voluntarily, the official said. Dr Sanjeev Bagai, chairman, Nephron Clinic, said medical visa norms for patients from Pakistan were tightened after the September 2016 attack on an Army brigade headquarters in Uri. Now, they are expected to be blocked completely.

“Patients from Pakistan prefer India because of better clinical results at one-tenth the cost (in developed countries). India is nearer, there is no language barrier, currency availability is not an issue and they get better follow-up services,” he said.

Indian defence experts said it was necessary to immediately suspend all kinds of visas so that ordinary citizens pressure Islamabad to stop protecting terrorists on its soil. “Visas on all possible grounds — family, medical, trade, etc. — must be stopped for a reasonable period to enable Pakistan’s ordinary citizens to realize what their state has been up to,” said Deba Mohanty, a New Delhi-based defence and strategic affairs expert.

In 2015-16, about 1,921 medical visas were issued to Pakistani nationals, 58,360 to patients from Bangladesh and 29,492 to those from Afghanistan

The dossier that New Delhi is putting together will contain evidence of Pakistani involvement not only in the Pulwama attack, where the Jaish-e-Mohammad has claimed responsibility, but also in training, equipping and guiding terror groups in Jammu and Kashmir and even in mainland India, officials said.

The Cabinet Committee on Security – the highest decisionmaking body on security, chaired by the Prime Minister and comprising the defence, home and external affairs ministers – met on Friday and decided to launch a massive diplomatic effort to isolate Pakistan. In their Saturday meetings, Gokhale and the other secretaries rejected Pakistan’s denial of involvement and highlighted its role in “using terrorism as an instrument of its state policy”, said an official familiar with the development. Reacting to Pakistan foreign secretary Tehmina Janjua’s remarks denying involvement in the attack, external affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar described Islamabad’s call for an investigation into the strike as “preposterous”.

“Jaish-e-Mohammed has claimed responsibility for the attack. The organisation and its leadership are located in Pakistan. Lashkar-e-Taiba and other terror groups have welcomed the news of the attack. These groups are also based in Pakistan. Pakistan cannot claim it is unaware of their presence and their activities,” Kumar said.

Also on Saturday, Iran expressed its support after a meeting with foreign minister Sushma Swaraj. “Iran & India suffered from two heinous terrorist attacks in the past few days resulted in big casualties. Today in my meeting with Sushma Swaraj the Indian FM, when she had a stopover in Tehran, we agreed on close cooperation to combat terrorism in the region. Enough is enough!” tweeted Seyed Abbas Araghchi, the Iranian foreign minister.

Notably, after the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks when 10 Pakistan-based terrorists took the sea route to attack India’s financial capital and killed 166 people, New Delhi had sent nearly a dozen dossiers, including the DNA samples of the terrorists, to Islamabad with a demand that Pakistan investigates and book those behind the attack. And earlier, India had given evidence of Pakistan’s role in supporting terror groups to the international community.

Pakistan hasn’t acted against these groups despite international demands, “especially groups and individuals proscribed by the UN and other countries”, Kumar said. “The links to Pakistan are clear and evident for all to see. Its own ministers have shared the same podium with UN-proscribed terrorists,” he added. As the suicide bomber had issued a video declaring himself a member of JeM, India has “no doubt that the claim is firmly established”, he said.


Tearful adieu to CRPF men with full state honours

Politicians, civil and paramilitary officials join the grieving family members as hundreds of people turn up for the last rites of six men killed from region

The last rites of six Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) men from the region killed in the Pulwama terror attack on Thursday were performed with full state honours at their native towns and villages on Saturday. Similar scenes were seen at all places as ministers, legislators and administrative and paramilitary officials joined the family members and hundreds of people from surrounding areas to give a tearful adieu to the departed souls.

SANJEEV KUMAR/HTA huge procession carrying the Tricolour-draped coffin of Jaimal Singh, 44, for the cremation at Ghalauti village in Moga on Saturday. The last rites were attended by Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, Akali president Sukhbir Singh Badal and AAP’s Bhagwant Mann.WIFE FALLS UNCONSCIOUS

As soon as the mortal remains of Sukhjinder Singh, 32, reached his home at Gandiwind Dhattal village in Tarn Taran’s Patti subdivision, his wife Sarabjit Kaur, 27, broke down and fell unconscious for some time.

Sukhjinder, who has left behind his wife, eight-month-old son, elderly parents and a brother, was recently promoted as a head constable.

Hundreds of people gathered to pay their tributes to the soldier, Union minister Vijay Goel and Punjab minister Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria among them. His father Gurmej Singh lit the pyre.

“The Government of India and the whole nation stands with the families of martyrs,” said Goel, while promising action against the perpetrators.

Meanwhile, villagers urged Sarkaria to construct a sports ground in Sukhjinder’s name in the village.

MEMORIAL ANNOUNCED

Slogans of “Shaheed Kulwinder Singh Amar Rahey” rent the air as the funeral procession of the 26-year-old proceeded towards the cremation ground at Rauli village near Nurpur Bedi in Rupnagar district.

Kulwinder’s father Darshan Singh performed his last rites, as Punjab assembly speaker Rana KP Singh, local MLA Amarjit Singh Sandoa and deputy commissioner Sumeet Jarangal paid their tributes. The speaker announced the construction of a memorial in his name.

Earlier, heart-rending scenes were witnessed when Kulwinder’s body was brought to his home. His fiancee, Amandeep Kaur, was also present there, still in a state of shock. Kulwinder had returned to his battalion in Jammu and Kashmir on February 10 after a 10-day leave.

Meanwhile, shops in the area remained shut in protest against the terror attack.

MANN FOR ₹1 CR RELIEF

The Tricolour-draped coffin of Jaimal Singh, 44, reached his house at Ghalauti village in Moga district in presence of civil and paramilitary officials in the morning.

Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal and his wife and Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Aam Aadmi Party state president Bhagwant Mann called on the family to pay condolences.

Jaimal was driving the CRPF vehicle that was blown up after a suicide bomber rammed an explosive-laden vehicle into it. His father Jaswant Singh and six-year-old son lit the pyre.

Mann promised to build a memorial in form of a library, gate or school in Jaimal’s memory while demanding at least ₹1 crore relief to the family.

Harsimrat Kaur slammed Pakistan for sheltering terrorists on its soil while Sukhbir said it’s high time to teach it a lesson.

ANTI-PAK SLOGANS RAISED

Union minister Vijay Sampla and Punjab transport minister Aruna Chaudhary were in attendance as Lakhbish Singh, a CRPF jawan posted in Assam, lit the pyre of his brother Maninder Singh, 30, at Dinanagar, 11 km from the district headquarters in Gurdaspur.

As his coffin wrapped in the Tricolour was being taken from his house to the cremation ground, a section of people even shouted anti-Pakistan slogans.

Maninder, an outstanding basketball player with an IT degree, had joined the CRPF under sports quota 15 months ago. He had also worked with an MNC before joining the CRPF.

‘SACRIFICE NOT IN VAIN’

People from all walks of life in Dhewa village of Kangra district paid tribute to Tilak Raj, 30. Tilak’s body was flown to Pathankot on Friday evening and reached his native village on Saturday morning.

Tilak, who is survived by his wife Savitri Devi, two sons and parents, was also a folk singer and a kabbadi player.

He has sung many hit songs in Gaddiyali — dialect of Gaddi tribe of the hill state. His younger son Vivan was born just 23 days ago. Union health minister JP Nadda arrived from Delhi while Himachal Pradesh chief minister Jai Ram Thakur flew from Shimla to pay tributes to him.

While consoling Tilak’s father Shri Layak Ram and other family members, the CM said Tilak laid down his life for the nation’s sake and assured the state government’s assistance. Meanwhile, Nadda said the sacrifice of CRPF men killed in the terror attack would not go in vain.

Tilak’s elder brother Baldev Singh, who lit the pyre, said: “My brother gave his life to a cause of the country and the family is proud of him.”

PALL OF GLOOM

Head constable Naseer Ahmed, 46, of Dodasan Bala village in Rajouri district had celebrated his birthday at the CRPF’s transit camp on Wednesday, a day before the terror attack. Just three days after the celebrations, amid a pall of gloom, his mortal remains were laid to rest with full military honours at his native village on Saturday.

Prominent among those who attended the burial were Union minister Jitendra Singh, MP Jugal Kishore Sharma and legislative assembly speaker Nirmal Singh. Rajouri district police chief Yougal Manhas said Naseer is survived by his wife Shazia Kousar and daughter Falak, 8, son Kashif, 6. His elder brother Siraj-ud-Din is a head constable in the Jammu and Kashmir Armed Police.

“In a state of shock, his family and relatives in the village have only one question to those at the helm of affairs: for how long will soldiers continue to be killed by terrorists,” said CRPF spokesperson Ashish Kumar Jha, quoting Siraj-ud-Din.

Meanwhile, Jitendra Singh asked the Rajouri deputy commissioner to set up a school after Naseer at his native place.

 

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CAG on IAF purchases Rafale reflects the need for major corrections

CAG on IAF purchases

The Rafale tender stole the political thunder in the Comptroller and Auditor General of India’s (CAG) assessment of 11 capital acquisitions by the Indian Air Force over a time period that spanned both the UPA and Modi governments. Considering that previous CAG reports on coal and 2G had irrevocably damaged the credibility of the UPA government, the Modi government can consider itself fortunate to have escaped unscathed because of the inventiveness of the auditors. The CAG used a never-used formula (called alignment pricing) to declare the Modi tender cheaper than the UPA era’s now-cancelled 126 aircraft bid. An audit basically evaluates four criteria in a defence platform: quality, cost-effectiveness, delivery and objectivity. The CAG report gives conditional thumbs up on only two: cost-effectiveness and the delivery schedule. Even these are up for debate.

But the benchmark of objectivity, which includes intangibles such as transparency, fair play and integrity, stands in a grey zone. For instance, the comparison of UPA and NDA-era prices on the basis of a French index is debatable when payments are made in dollars. A dissent note alleging parallel negotiations (dismissed by then Defence Minister Parrikar as an overreaction) went unchallenged, while there was just a mild rap for not signing an integrity pact and succumbing to French refusal on opening an Escrow account. The Modi government was also easily let off the hook for failing to respond to a 20 per cent price cut by a Rafale competitor. Who knows whether Rafale would have still played tough if it had not been the single vendor.

Rafale was one of the 11 purchases studied by CAG and the common tale that emerges is of overambitious services whose requirements are frequently changed, leading to several vendors dropping out; the contract negotiations committee that rarely establishes the benchmark price, which, in turn, makes it difficult to establish the reasonability of the price. Complex and multi-level approval processes further add to the delays. Overall, the existing capital acquisition system is unlikely to effectively support the IAF in its war preparedness and modernisation.


Pulwama terror attack J&K needs governance beyond rhetoric

Pulwama terror attack

A shroud of sadness descended on the country as the news came in of the death of 40 CRPF men in a suicide bomb attack. The nation as one joins the shattered families in their hour of grief. But repeated rhetoric of a muscular kind has now been shown to be inadequate in addressing national security concerns. The daily kill count in the Kashmir valley and the extended political celebration of the surgical strikes, recently made into a testosterone-laden blockbuster movie, were insufficient to neutralise the consequences of a disastrous coalition experimentation, repeated governance failures and the sidelining of alternative political voices in the Valley.

The unrelenting security operations with no political solution on the horizon may well have given way to complacency in the Kashmir’s security infrastructure, leading to a grave intelligence lapse that permitted the accumulation of several hundred kilograms of explosives used in the attack. Pakistan is, of course, behind this attack. But we cannot forget that it was a local youth who rammed the car into the CRPF convoy. Continuing counter-insurgency strikes in the Valley are creating a contrarian conflict, which can only be addressed through a political process. The government and people of India cannot win this battle without winning the hearts and minds of the local population.

If the huge cache of explosives establishes the scale of intelligence failure, we need to ask how could 2,500 security personnel be ferried without following the standard operating procedure? We cannot afford to shed more blood in vain. If choppers are the answer, let the government bring in a more expensive alternative. The maximum losses of security forces have happened on the Anantnag-Brijbehara-Pampore axis, yet there has not been sufficient surveillance to deter this murderous mayhem that reduced the CRPF bus to a mangled heap. Pakistan’s deep state will try every dirty trick in its book but we should be militarily prepared to stop, expose and hit at its resources like Masood Azhar. Simultaneously, we should create an atmosphere of political engagement to address the angst of the Valley’s youth.


Pulwama martyr laid to rest with state honours in Rajouri

Pulwama martyr laid to rest with state honours in Rajouri

Jitendra Singh pays tributes to CRPF Head Constable Nasir Ahmed at Dodassan Bala village in Rajouri on Saturday. Tribune photo

Shyam Sood

Rajouri, February 16

Head Constable of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) Nasir Ahmed, who was killed in a suicide attack in Pulwama district on Thursday, was laid to rest with full state honours at his native Dodassan Bala village in Rajouri district on Saturday.

Themartyr was posted in Jammu and was deputed as the commander of the CRPF convoy, which had left Jammu for Kashmir on Thursday.

Minister of State in the PMOJitendra Singh, former Deputy CM Nirmal Singh, state BJP president Ravinder Raina, MP Jugal Kishore, CRPF IG B Chouhan, CRPF DIG Nitu Bhatacharya, Rajouri DC MA Asad, Rajouri SSPYougal Manhas and senior Army officers paid homage to Head Constable Nasir at his village.

Thousands of people had gathered in the village to pay their last respects to the martyr.

The coffin draped in a Tricolour was brought in a procession about 12.30 pm and the martyr was laid to rest in the presence family members, relatives and dignitaries.

Jitendra expressed his condolences to the family of the martyr, who is survived by wife, minor daughter and a son.

The minister also interacted with Sehraj-ud-Din, elder brother of the martyr, who is a head constable in the J&K Police and at present posted in Jammu. He directed the senior officers to get him posted in Rajouri, if he wanted, so that he could take care of the family.

“The CRPF will always stand by the side of Nasir’s family and we are thankful to the entire nation for showing solidarity with the family,” said CRPF DIG Nitu Bhatacharya.

‘Establish school in Nasir’s name’

  • Thousands of people had gathered in Dodassan Bala village of Rajouri district to pay their last respects to Head Constable Nasir Ahmed
  • Minister of State in the PMO Jitendra Singh paid tributes to the martyr in the village. He also met the family and expressed his condolences to them. He asked the Rajouri Deputy Commissioner to establish a school in the name of martyr