FIRST, stories went around regarding a so-called "minus-one" formula, which implied that the PPP-led government was acceptable to the offstage players only if it agreed to offload President Zardari. This sent a wave of jubilation among his shortsighted opponents who were already zeroing in on him. What one sees on certain TV channels now, is a targeting of the PML(N), which has provided delight to the myopic politicians on the other side of the political divide. A part of the media has suddenly discovered certain retired intelligence officials with seedy reputations who had gone into oblivion. What surprises many is the zeal with which they dwell on events, some of which happened two decades back. The aim to dig up the past is simply to discredit politicians, an exercise considered by some as part of a "minus-all" conspiracy. What has occurred in the process is that vital issues that need to be resolved urgently, including the striking down of the 17th Amendment, Gen (retd) Musharraf's trial, a solution of the Balochistan issue and the government's inability to control the fresh wave of suicide attacks, have receded into the background. What is more, the PPP and PML(N) are again at loggerheads. PML(N)'s Information Secretary Ahsan Iqbal warned the Presidency on Monday to stop campaign against his party in 48 hours or get ready for a tit-for-tat response. The PML(N) maintains that a cell in the Presidency is responsible for the ongoing campaign against its leadership. This has been vehemently denied by President's spokesman Farhatullah Babar, who has termed the allegation part of a malicious campaign, while Federal Minister Babar Awan has rebutted the charge, saying that the last cell of the type was run by the PML(N)'s Saif-ur-Rehman. Unable to hide her glee at some of the allegations, PPP Information Secretary Fauzia Wahab is repeatedly demanding that the Supreme Court take up Air Marshal (retd) Asghar Khan's petition regarding the ISI's funding of the defunct IJI. As if to provoke the PML(N), Interior Minister Rehman Malik has challenged Mian Nawaz Sharif to lead a protest march to Islamabad to demand Gen (retd) Musharraf's trial. While in exile, PPP and PML(N) leaders had claimed they had learnt from the past mistakes. They had also promised never to play in the hands of the offstage players and avoid no-holds-barred fights reminiscent of the 1988-1999 era that weakened the system and encouraged Musharraf to stage a military coup. What one sees happening now indicates that the realisation was merely skin-deep. There is a need on the part of the PPP and PML(N), and for that matter the MQM, to be wary of those who want to upset the applecart. What is more, they need to rein in their respective leaderships who continue to issue statements that can only add fuel to the fire.