In the parable, Before the Law, Franz Kafka represents the law as a physical space. The entire story is about a man who is trying to get through a gateway that will let him enter into the law. As this man approaches, he seems that though the gate is open, there is a gatekeeper in front of it. The gatekeeper tells the man that he cannot let him through. The man asks if he will be allowed in later. The gatekeeper says it’s possible, but it remains unclear as to why the man isn’t allowed, or if he will be allowed in the future. The gatekeeper warns that there are more gatekeepers ahead. The man did not expect such difficulties.
The law should always be accessible to everyone, he thinks, but as he looks more closely at the gatekeeper, he decides that it would be better to wait till he gets permission to go inside. It is because the gatekeeper seems to have a sense of authority that the man decides not to barge through. The man even offers his belongings to the gatekeepers who takes everything but does not allow him to pass. The man believes that in order to convince the gatekeeper, he just needs to ask the right question or do the right thing to be allowed in. But nothing the man does seems to matter. The gatekeeper asks the man some questions, but he doesn’t seem interested in the response. Years and years have passed, but the man continues to wait by the gate until he is old and frail. He is still entirely fixated on it. He finally sees light coming out of the gateway and realises that he has one question left: everyone strives after the law, so how is that in these many years no one except him has requested entry, he asks. The gatekeeper replies, no one else can gain entry since this entrance was assigned only to you. The man dies and the gatekeeper closes the gates.
The plight of the man is synonymous with the citizens of Pakistan. It is not the story of any individual Pakistani, but rather of the collective masses of Pakistan who are awaiting justice while waiting outside courtrooms doors and behind bars. They are slowly dying at the hands of justice and their lives are devoid of freedom and peace. Even before them, countless people have died while helplessly waiting, but they never got permission to enter this obscure gateway. How can they be allowed to enter? These doors are not made for them as the entry of the common man has been declared forbidden. According to the statistics gathered by the Law department, a staggering two million cases are still pending in courts across the country. To make matters worse, there are approximately 88,000 prisoners languishing in 116 jails across the country, with many awaiting trial dates that keep on getting extended.
Unfortunately, only the elite class can enter these doors. Justice is prevalent and timely for them. How stupid are the 22 million people who are still sitting at the same doors, waiting for their situation and their plight to change? They are not getting tired of begging for entry because they know that their lives and their freedom depends on it. They are rotting day by day, but still not letting their hopes diminish. They are refusing to accept the reality that this country was not made for them, instead they are the ones that have made this country through blood, sweat and tears. This country was built only for the whims, luxuries and pleasures of a few rich and powerful families. The rest are here to work for them.
Laws are made to protect the rich and subjugate the elite. The justice system seems to work and even bend over for those that can throw in a quarter or more. But when it comes to providing justice and freedom to the less fortunate, the doors are slammed shut on their faces and gatekeepers stand firm to deny them their due right. In such a situation, it is difficult to imagine a world where equality reigns supreme.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 7th, 2023.
Like Opinion & Editorial on Facebook, follow @ETOpEd on Twitter to receive all updates on all our daily pieces.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ