ISLAMABAD    -  The battle lines have been drawn for today’s crucial session of the Upper House to decide the fate of Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani and Deputy Chairman Saleem Mandviwalla through secret balloting on the no-trust motions against them.

After ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s futile efforts to convince the opposition to withdraw the first-ever no-trust motion against Senate Chairman, now both sides are sticking to their positions that they would be on the victory stand.

The ruling party and its allies that are in minority in the 104-member house have claimed more than once that the opposition’s move was bound to fail as some of their senators would vote in favour of Sanjrani through the secret balloting.

The opposition parties being in majority in the house are saying that all of their senators were intact with their stance to remove Sanjrani and National Party Senator Mir Hasil Bizenjo, their joint candidate for the Senate chairmanship, is set to replace Sanjrani through a successful no-confidence motion against him. However, it has time and again warned the government not to indulge in horse-trading.

Today’s Senate session would be the culmination of major political activities in the capital that started since July 9 when the opposition had moved no trust motion against Sanjrani. Later, the government in a tit-for-tat manner also moved no-confidence motion against Deputy Chairman Senate Salim Madviwalla who represents opposition but later has not taken this move serious.

However, the success or failure of the move to remove Sanjrani would set the tone of the opposition parties for their future political struggle against Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government.

 The leadership of at least two opposition parties, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), is facing corruption cases. The government claims that opposition wants to avoid this accountability drive through this move and it is taking efforts to de-seat Sanjrani as a major challenge for it.

Muttahida Quami Movement Senator Barrister Mohammad Ali Saif would preside over the session as under Rule 12, chairman or deputy chairman Senate could not chair a sitting of the Senate in which “a resolution for removal of any one of them from office is fixed for consideration.

Senate Secretariat on Wednesday through a notification issued the procedure for voting on the resolutions for removal of chairman and deputy chairman Senate to be adopted in today’s especially summoned session for this purpose. It has been circulated among all members.

“In pursuance of sub-rule (10) of Rule 12 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Senate, 2012, the procedure (in English and Urdu) for voting on the resolution is annexed for your kind consideration,” the notification says adding that these resolutions would be moved in the session that will meet today at 2 pm.

“A ballot paper, containing the two columns (in favour of the Resolution and against the Resolution) and duly signed upon by an officer of the secretariat and stamped on its reverse with the seal of the Senate, will be issued to each Member,” it says. It further says that secrecy of the ballot paper should be ensured and disclosing the ballot paper or taking its photograph is strictly prohibited.

Before a voting on the resolution, the presiding officer under sub-rule (7) of Rule 12 shall call members to rise in their seats who are in favour of the leave seeking to move any one of the resolution and if at least one-fourth of the total membership of the Senate rises so, he will allow to move the resolution and vice versa.

Meanwhile, the opposition parties in the Senate met twice in a power of show and to ensure presence of their members for today’s crucial voting.

First, the opposition senators gathered at the Parliament House to attend a luncheon hosted by Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. In the evening, they attended a dinner at the local hotel that was hosted by Mir Hasil Bizenjo, the opposition’s joint candidate for the position of chairman.

Vice-President PML-N Maryam Nawaz addressing the participants of the dinner, said that Thursday would prove to be a defeat of the mindset of breaking away political parties. Now the time of floor crossing and to ditch political parties is over, she said.

The opposition will again meet today morning to attend a brunch hosted by President Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Saharif.

The major opposition parties in the Senate including PPP, PML-N, National Party, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam- Fazl, Awami National Party attended both events.

At the luncheon, Bilawal while talking to reporters advised chairman Senate to resign as he still has time to voluntarily leave his position. “It would have been good if Sanjrani himself resigns; otherwise the opposition is all set to remove him.”

Bilawal claimed that the opposition had the required numbers to de-seat the Senate chairman.

On the other hand, the ruling PTI showed its resolve that Sanjrani will not resign and would contest till the last moment.

Leader of the House in the Senate Shibli Faraz in his media interaction said that there was no truth in the rumours that Sanjrani was going to resign before the voting. “He will contest the election till the last lawmaker would stand by him,” he said. He also accused opposition of spreading the rumours regarding Sanjrani’s resignation.

Meanwhile, Bizenjo while talking to reporters said that he had already won the day when his name was put forward for this position. He claimed that he had the support of 65 opposition senators and also advised Sanjrani to resign. “It would be better for him as well as for us,” he said.

Separately, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman called on Shahbaz Sharif and the both sides discussed no-trust motion against chairman Senate and the opposition’s future strategy to give a tough time to PM Imran Khan.