"The millions of women and men who cast their ballots are a testament to the courage and the commitment of Afghans to exercise their rights and shape their future. The Secretary- General welcomes their momentous achievement," Ban said in a statement issued by his spokesperson on Sunday. (Agencies)
"Afghans braved threats and intimidation to exercise their right to vote, and in doing so, they have sent a powerful message that the perpetrators of violence cannot win," he said.
Congratulating the Afghans on Saturday's "historic" Presidential and Provincial Council elections, Ban said the elections "mark an important step forward in Afghanistan’s first democratic transition of power."
He noted the strong participation of women in the polls, as elections workers, observers, candidates and as voters, describing it as another step forward for Afghan women in taking their rightful place in society and having a say in their country's future on an equal basis with Afghan men.
Ban also commended the Afghan national security forces for their professionalism and dedication that enabled citizens to vote in the face of serious security threats.
He hoped that efforts by Afghanistan's independent electoral institutions would ensure that the final results reflect the will of the voters.
"The Secretary-General encourages all Afghans to continue supporting the electoral institutions as they discharge their critical responsibilities fairly, transparently and in the interests of the Afghan people," the statement added.
The powerful UN Security Council also welcomed the national vote, reiterating that the historic elections are critical to Afghanistan’s transition and democratic development.
The 15-nation Council commended the participation and courage of the Afghan people to cast their ballot despite the threat and intimidation by the Taliban and other extremist and terrorist groups.
It, however, condemned the actions of those who attempted to disrupt the elections, such as terrorist attacks against civilians, including election personnel and candidates, as well as attacks against election infrastructure.
"The members of the Council condemn violent and terrorist activities by the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and other violent and extremist groups and illegal armed groups aimed at destabilizing the situation in the country," it said.
Among the front-runners to succeed President Hamid Karzai are former foreign minister Zalmai Rassoul, Abdullah Abdullah-runner up in the 2009 election - and former World Bank academic Ashraf Ghani.
"The millions of women and men who cast their ballots are a testament to the courage and the commitment of Afghans to exercise their rights and shape their future. The Secretary- General welcomes their momentous achievement," Ban said in a statement issued by his spokesperson on Sunday.