Torkham: The closure of the Torkham border for the fifth consecutive day intensified the financial and physical woes of traders, transporters and pedestrians as confusion prevailed on Thursday as Afghan authorities reopened their side of the border but Pakistani authorities insisted that they would follow suit only after a formal meeting between officials of both countries, the Dawn reported.

The Torkham crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan remained closed for the fifth day. There are long queues of goods carriers on both sides of Torkham Gate, with fear of spoilage of goods like vegetables and fruit. Due to this situation, economic experts have expressed fear of the loss of crores of rupees to the country's exchequer. Hundreds of passengers are trapped on both sides and are lying under the open sky. Eyewitnesses say that the drivers are facing difficulties due to the parking of 17 kms of freight vehicles from the Torkham border to Ali Masjid, as reported by Pakistan's vernacular media.

Assistant Commissioner Irshad Momand told Dawn that they were not given any information from the Afghan side as to why actually the border was closed by them on Sunday night and what prompted them (the Afghan side) to reopen it on Thursday.

He said that as per border protocols, a formal meeting between the officials of both countries was yet to take place to remove the misunderstandings, devising a proper plan for pedestrian movement on both sides of the border.

"We are still to take up the actual issue at a proper forum and then move forward with a mutually agreed plan for the future," he said while clarifying why Pakistan had not yet reopened its own border.

The Dawn reported that confusion persisted about the reopening of the border crossing on the fifth day. Meanwhile, scores of desperate returning Afghans with women and children thronged the Torkham border early on Thursday after news about the reopening of the border was circulated on social media.

Their 'joy' however remained short-lived when they learnt that Pakistan was yet to allow them to go back. They waited near the border in anticipation of 'good news' soon, as reported by the Dawn News.

Most of the Afghans aspiring to go back were confronted with multiple problems as they faced food shortages while also taking temporary shelter in warehouses, which were not fit for living. Some took refuge in British-era railway tunnels with no proper beddings and warm clothes.

A local volunteer organization arranged food, clothes and medicines for the stranded Afghans.

The prolonged closure of the busy border between Pakistan and Afghanistan hugely impacted the bilateral trade with hundreds of loaded trucks stranded on both sides.

Chicken and fish dealers said that they took back their vehicles to Peshawar as they feared the rotting of the edibles owing to the prolonged delay in reopening the border.

Containers loaded with vegetables, fresh fruit, rice, sugar and other items remained parked on roadsides, stretching about 20 kilometres from the border point to Shagai.

Sherin, a truck driver, said that he had vegetables loaded on his vehicle while taking it to the Afghan capital but was delayed by five days against his date of delivery.

"We incur huge losses both in terms of delay in delivery and the additional charges due to the border closure. We also face problems in arranging three meals and taking care of the merchandise for fear of being looted by unscrupulous elements," he said.

He said that the Afghan importers of vegetables refused to pay the total price due to their decomposed nature while the suppliers were also losing further orders.

Iblan Ali, a customs clearing agent and a coal dealer told Dawn that traders and transporters on both sides had so far lost more than Rs 5 billion owing to the five days of the border closure. He added that such petty issues should be kept aside from obstructing bilateral trade, the Dawn reported.