Former soap star tough man turned reporter, Ross Kemp has made a new second series of his intrepid television documentary, Extreme World. The first episode aired last night on Sky One and saw the audacious reporter being shot at in Karachi.
The documentary series sees Kemp travelling around the world to some of the most dangerous and violent hotspots on the planet. In the first series he got up close and personal with heroin addicts on the streets of Chicago, met child labour victims in the Congo and dodged bullets in the murder capital of the world in Juarez, Mexico.
In the first episode of the second series shown on Sky One, Kemp travels to the Pakistan port city of Karachi. Here, several ethnic minorities mix, fight and scramble for political control. Kidnapping is a daily occurrence and violence and torture are part of everyday life. And that is just in the safer parts of the city. Karachi is home to some 29 million people and there is such a diverse spread of ethnic populous here that factional fighting takes place almost daily.
The Muhajirs came in as refugees from India and the Punjabis, Pashtuns and Sindhis fight for control of the busy port often with deadly force. The police are underpaid, ill-equipped and poorly trained to keep any assemblance of law and order.
If Ross Kemp thought Karachi was mad, bad and a dangerous place to go, then a visit the the district of Lyari was to prove almost fatal. Lyari is a neighbourhood of Karachi and home to a million people. It is where the People's Aman Committee (PAC) rule with an iron fist. Even the police dare not venture into this lucrative port side neighbourhood.
Kemp had met with an influential Pakistani journalist who told Kemp that she could get him in to Lyari, as she "holds some sway and influence with the those who control Lyari." He was taken through the streets of Lyari in a small van and immediately garnered surprised looks from the locals. This is definitely a no-go area for westerners and Kemp had put him and his film crew in a very volatile position.
Kemp met with the spiritual leader of Lyari who took him on a walkabout around the streets. The people loved Baloch, a man wanted by police for the alleged murder of 25 people, accusations he denied to Kemp. Here however in Baloch's domain, criminal gangs create a lethal cocktail of extortion, brutal torture, kidnap and killings. It's hard to imagine that Pakistan is not actually at war.
During the visit Kemp and his crew look out on the roof of Baloch's house and come under gunfire from a police force who had got wind of a western film crew in Lyari (yes Kemp's team!). Shots were fired and bullets whistled over the heads of the cameraman.
Baloch and his men hid out in a basement room and a television news channel was switched on with a breaking news sequence reporting on the very siege Ross Kemp and his crew were involved in.
Will he and his Pakistani journalist friend get out alive? There are no spoilers from me here but Extreme World: Karachi is gritty, compelling and ultimately very sad. You will watch most of this episode through the cracks of your fingers and thank your lucky stars you don't live in a place like Lyari.