Polls closed in Pakistan Saturday, after a day of voting in which bursts of deadly violence aimed at polling stations failed to deter Pakistanis keen to have their say in landmark national and provincial elections.
Voter turnout was nearly 60%, the chief election commissioner said early Sunday.
The national election marks the first transition between civilian governments in the nation's 66-year history.
In its short existence, the nation has experienced three military coups, been ruled by generals for half its life and remains mired in political turmoil.
In March, the democratically elected government finished serving a full five-year term, paving the way for the elections.
Street parties erupted in the cities of Lahore and Peshawar early Sunday, with people celebrating even before the results of the vote were in.
In his stronghold of Lahore, candidate and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said he was confident his party will form the next government. He said he hopes his party won enough seats to form a government on its own but that he is willing to work with others to solve the country's problems.
The Election Commission extended polling hours in some constituencies in the southern city of Karachi, where there were complaints about the vote.
The Election Commission secretary, Ishtiak Ahmed Khan, told a news conference the election was free and fair across much of the country, despite the problems in Karachi.
Aside from claims of irregularities, four blasts hit Karachi as people voted, killing 14 people and wounding dozens. Across the country, 29 people were killed in election day violence.
Despite pre-election attacks, voters lined up at dawn at polling stations nationwide, eager to send off the caretaker government put in place in March.
"This is the first time I am voting and I am 60; I want change," said Shaheen Khan, who was at a polling station in Karachi, the nation's largest city. "There were thousands of people when I came ... the queue was so long. People in wheelchairs and crutches all waiting to vote."
Waits of three hours or more were reported at some polling stations. Election officials also reported delays in opening at some polls, the official Associated Press of Pakistan news agency reported.
A statement from the office of interim Prime Minister Mir Hazar Khan Khoso thanked the people of Pakistan for "coming out in huge numbers" to vote, as well as everyone involved in participating in and organizing the elections.
He voiced "confidence that the next phase of counting of votes will also be completed smoothly," and reiterated the determination of the caretaker government to hand over to the winners without delay.
Vote rigging claims
The leader of the governing Pakistan People's Party, Taj Haider, alleged vote rigging in some constituencies in Sindh province and its capital, Karachi, in a news conference broadcast by CNN affiliate Geo TV. Haider called on the country's election commission to hold a new vote in the affected constituencies.
Leaders of the Sindh-based Mutahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), one of Pakistan's largest and most liberal parties, told reporters that they would boycott the elections over allegations of rigging.
The Sunni Ittehad Council and Jamaat e Islami parties also announced a boycott, Geo TV reported.
Many Pakistanis hope the polls will usher in reform in a country battling issues including corruption, a struggling economy and security threats.
President Asif Ali Zardari condemned the Saturday's election violence but said the militants' "cowardly acts" would not stop people from exercising their right to vote.
An open letter from Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who was attacked by the Taliban last year for her efforts to promote girls' education, urged everyone, and particularly women, to use their vote.
"If we want education, electricity and natural gas in our country, we must take a step," said her letter, published by Pakistan's Dawn website. "Let's vote for our country. We never realized how much powerful our vote is. One vote can change our country."
Blasts target voters
In some cities, the insecurity was evident Saturday.