As news emerged that the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) of slain former PM Benazir Bhutto would form the largest party in parliament, its supporters took to the streets in celebration.
Supporters of the Pakistan Muslim League, led by another former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, also celebrated on the streets. It is now expected to be the second largest party.
Analysts say the performance of the PPP and PML[N] showed that the voters had rejected the militant Islamist parties, who suffered heavy losses.
Victory parties were seen on the streets of Lahore, Rawalpindi and Karachi as news of early results trickled out.
The Islamist parties' losses were most clearly seen in North West Frontier Province, where the Awami National League Party won seats at their expense.