"I never voted for anyone in the past, but today my sons asked me to go to the polling station, and I am here to vote," said Mohammed Akbar in the northwestern city of Khar. "Imran Khan is promising to bring a good change, and we will support him."
Khan survived a horrific fall off a forklift during a campaign event Tuesday in the eastern city of Lahore that sent him to the hospital with three broken vertebrae and a broken rib. He is not believed to have voted Saturday because he couldn't travel to his polling place.
Nobody is sure how effective he will be in translating his widespread popularity into votes, especially considering he boycotted the 2008 election and only got one seat in 2002.
Turnout will be critical, especially among the youth. Almost half of Pakistan's more than 80 million registered voters are under the age of 35, but young people have often stayed away from the polls in the past.
The election's outcome is likely riding on the tally in the province of Punjab, Pakistan's most populous, where Sharif and Khan have been dueling for the people's support with a series of large rallies and campaign events.
Even on election day the excitement was evident. In Lahore, which has not been touched by the pre-election violence seen in other parts of Pakistan, Sharif supporters carried stuffed tigers — the party's election symbol — and Khan followers carried cricket bats as they chanted slogans in favor of their candidates.
As Sharif cast his ballot at a Lahore voting station, supporters serenaded him with chants of "Lion! Lion!"
"We brought change before. We will bring change again," he said.
On the campaign trail, Sharif played up his extensive political experience compared to Khan's, and touted key projects he completed while in office, including a highway between the capital Islamabad and Lahore.