Since April, the Taliban in Pakistan have killed dozens in attacks on the three main political parties. Many urban voters and parties regard resurgent fundamentalism as one of country's biggest threats.
More than 600,000 security personnel were deployed nationwide leading up to the election, Information Minister Arif Nizami said Friday.
Pakistan's army, which helped deliver 650 tons of ballots to polling stations, deployed 91,000 troops around the country, a military spokesman said.
The ruling Pakistan People's Party is led by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of assassinated former prime minister and party leader Benazir Bhutto.
While his party became the first civilian government to complete a full five-year term -- the three governments after the death in 1988 of military strongman Zia ul-Haq were all brought down by the army -- its legacy is a deeply fractured country with a faltering economy.
The party's main opposition came from Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-N. One of the country's leading industrialists and richest men, Sharif has been prime minister twice before and was overthrown in a coup when Gen. Pervez Musharraf seized power in 1999.
Viewed as a religious conservative, his party -- Pakistan's second largest -- believes it would have won elections in 2008 had the assassination of Bhutto not given a massive boost to the ruling party.
Another contender was Imran Khan, the former cricket star and heartthrob who leads the Tehreek-e-Insaf (Movement for Justice) party.
Not in contention is Musharraf, who returned in March from four years of self-imposed exile to take part in the elections. A court banned him from taking part in politics and his party, the All Pakistan Muslim League, announced a boycott.
Musharraf and his allies weren't the only ones upset with Pakistan's leadership ahead of the election. The New York Times "strongly protested" the expulsion of its Islamabad bureau chief -- an order that Declan Walsh received at 12:30 a.m. locally, at his home.
The Committee to Protect Journalists joined the Times in slamming the move, with its Asia program coordinator Bob Dietz saying "it shows just how much the authorities fear independent media coverage."