'EastEnders' star Nina Wadia, who plays long-suffering housewife Zainab Masood, is leaving the soap after five years.

The actress and comedienne, who arrived in Albert Square with daughter Shabnam in 2007 as the new owner of the post office, said: "Playing Zainab has been a gift and a privilege."

She added: "I'll always be hugely proud of the ­talented friends I've worked with and I'm so grateful for the special bond with our audience who watch, care and talk to us every day. We're a family of ­millions.

zainab masood

Zainab Masood (Nina Wadia), Masood Ahmed (Nitin Ganatra), Ayesha Rana (Shivani Ghai) and AJ Ahmed (Phaldut Sharma)

"Letting go of something you love is never easy but the time has come to move on and every ending brings a new beginning. Here's to future loves."

In a statement, 'EastEnders' boss Lorraine Newman said: "For the past five years Nina has brought to life the ­wonderful Zainab - the formidable, ­fun- loving, opinionated, fiercely competitive matriarch. Nina's range as an actor is quite exceptional, from her comedic double acts right through to her ability to pull on our heart strings with incredibly moving drama."

"We are very sad to be losing Nina and wish her well in ventures new. She will be missed by the production as much as the audience."

Zainab is not expected to be killed off. How do you think she will leave Walford?

Loading Slideshow...
  • 20. Coronation Street 1997: Sally slaps Natalie for revenge on her affair

  • 19. Brookside 1994: Beth and Margaret's lesbian kiss

  • 18. EastEnders 1998: Tiffany is run over and killed

  • 17. Coronation Street 1996: Raquel leaves the Street

  • 16. Emmerdale 2011: Aaron helps Jackson end his life

  • 12. EastEnders 2005: Den is murdered by Chrissie

  • 15. Coronation Street 2006: Mike Baldwin dies

  • 14. EastEnders 2009: Sonia gives birth not knowing she's pregnant

  • 13. Emmerdale 2003: Chris poisons himself and then proceeds to frame Charity

  • 11. Hollyoaks 2008: Niall's explosive revenge on the McQueen family

  • 10. EastEnders 2007: Stacy and Max's affair is revealed

  • 9. Emmerdale 1997: Kim lets Frank die

  • 8. Coronation Street 2003: Tricky Dickie drives the Platts into the canal

  • 7. EastEnders 2009: Danielle dies in Ronnie's arms

  • 6. Brookside 1995: The body under the patio is dug

  • 5. Emmerdale 1993: The plane crash

  • 4. Coronation Street 1998: Deirdre is sent down

  • 3. EastEnders 2001: Kat tells Zoe she's her mum

  • 2. Coronation Street 2010: The tram crash

  • 1. EastEnders 1994: Sharongate