ALEX THOMSON: From the battle to the ballot. Four years after the Northern Alliance soldiers swept out of the Solang and Panjshir Valleys to overthrow the Taliban, Afghans voted in a peaceful, organized, and unarmed fashion.
"I've had a hard life," said Abdul Malichan. "My beard's white, my teeth are gone, but I walked over the mountains to vote."
ALEX THOMSON: His index finger stained indelibly to make sure he voted only once.
MAN (Translated): Well, I'm very, very happy, and God is very happy, too. You know, I walked all the way down the mountain at 5:00 AM this morning with my dodgy leg slowly, slowly, but full of happiness.
ALEX THOMSON: Women, of course, vote separately in an election where a quarter of the 249 seats in the new parliament will be reserved for women. We asked one, Aziza, why voting matters.
AZIZA (Translated): I've come here to vote so Afghanistan can be peaceful to stop the bloodshed for a better future.
ALEX THOMSON: Many talk of a political peace underpinning the physical regeneration and stability that you see here-- yesterday's halts of war in the valley, today's election poster display, new bridges for this famous highway linking northern to central Afghanistan. The Solang Pass Tunnel reopened to traffic after years of being a rubble-filled silence. By morning, Nurala had already voted and somehow got back to work 10,000 feet up the mountain at the tunnel. He reckoned everyone here would simply vote for the two men with religious and military power in the valley, just what many in the international election observers fear about this poll.
But just down from the pass, a big surprise. These men keep the road clear of snow and rock falls. It's a tough male world away from the wives and the children. But to a man, they voted for a woman. Samir Sadat: "They said all men want from politics is power and money, and they have screwed this whole country up." Hamid Dullah, the foreman, explained.
HAMID DULLAH (Translated): She's an independent candidate, she's the head of education in this province, she's a good woman, that's why I voted for her. (Mortar firing)
ALEX THOMSON: Where the valley widens onto the Shamali plain, the American-backed Northern Alliance made their advance on Kabul four years back.
SPOKESMAN: Thank you, thank you!
ALEX THOMSON: Today, along a totally refurbished highway, Jaricar is a more peaceful and more prosperous town. No queues here, but a steady trickle of voters showing their ID, dipping their fingers into that ink, taking the ballot and making their choice for both regional and national assemblies.
But what of the turnout? Out of town and in Kabul most polling stations were distinctly quiet. Observers say turnout is nothing like the presidential election about a year ago. Organizers say that's misleading because this time there are far more polling stations. Whatever the case, what matters now is what an Afghan parliament actually delivers. One poll observer said people are disillusioned already by broken promises, and she warned:
WOMAN (Translated): If the MP's don't work for the people's needs and the country's future, then people really will be disillusioned with the government and parliament. The people's needs are so great. (Cheers)
ALEX THOMSON: There must be change. The parliament must deliver. In Kabul, local cricket teams have been competing, each taking an international side. So, we caught up here with England versus India.
Being from Pakistan, the Taliban actually tolerated cricket, so this isn't a sign of change, which is fine with the voters, of course. But they certainly want their new parliament to deliver a radically altered country.