PESHAWAR: In a setback, the Afghan government has refused to work round the clock on the Pak-Afghan border in Torkham citing shortage of staff and other problems.

Sources said Pakistan has expressed reservations over this step by the Afghan government saying that it will delay the clearance process of vehicles on the border due to which the transporters and traders will face difficulties.

The Afghan officials have conveyed to Pakistan that counting process of votes is underway in Afghanistan after the October 17 presidential elections due to which the clearance process at the border is treated very carefully due to security concerns.

Afghan police at the border said they have been directed by the authorities to keep the border gates open from 9:00am to 7:00pm. A large number of goods vehicles are now again stranded at the border after this decision by the Afghan government.

Media reports said the officials of Pakistan and Afghanistan held a meeting at the border on Tuesday during which Pakistan complained about the slow clearance process on the Afghan side. The Afghan officials said they face shortage of staff. They said they have been directed not to clear vehicles carrying retail commodities till the counting of votes completes. On Tuesday, the Afghan officials only cleared those vehicles which were carrying cement.

After announcement of keeping the border open round the clock by the Pakistan government, the Pakistani officials are clearing 300 more vehicles then the previous routine on daily basis. Pakistani officials said over a thousand trucks are now stranded at the border due to non-clearance by the Afghan authorities.

Prime Minister Imran Khan formally inaugurated the 24/7 service at Torkham border last month. This step of the prime minister was greatly appreciated by the traders and people on both sides of the border. Traders and other people hoped that this step would boost bilateral trade and people-to-people contacts. However, the latest step by the Afghan government has apparently spoiled all the hard work by Pakistan.

Officials said that traffic at the border crossing is expected to decline further until the results of the Afghan presidential elections are announced. They said trade activities are also likely to reduce by 30 percent.